Principles: Ruth Richardson’s Big Idea That May Change The World In The Next Few Years

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

We need collaborative spaces where we can simply just do it. We need to create spaces where individuals and organizations who care about the same goals — such as mitigating climate change or ending hunger or finding effective ways to roll back the biodiversity crisis — can come together to develop a set of principles that will guide these actions. Again, principles are the compass and the destination helping us both to define where it is we need to go and to guide us on the journey there.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ruth Richardson.

Ruth Richardson, Executive Director, Global Alliance for the Future of Food, brings over 25 years of experience in the philanthropic sector to this role, and of particular relevance to this undertaking, has extensive experience starting new and complex things. These include being the first Director of the Unilever Canada Foundation, Founding Chair of the Canadian Environmental Grantmakers’ Network, and the first Environment Director at the Metcalf Foundation. Her tenure at the Metcalf Foundation also included acting on the Advisory Committee of the City of Toronto, Board of Health, Toronto Food Strategy to develop an action plan to improve the food system of the Toronto city region.

Ruth also served as the lead consultant to establish The Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada and has worked with private-public partnerships on sustainability issues and cross-border collaborations, such as coastal fisheries management. In her capacity with the Global Alliance, Ruth is on the International Advisory Group on Up-scaling Ecosystem-based Adaptation funded by the German Federal Environmental Ministry under its International Climate Initiative. She also served on the Steering Committee of TEEBAgriFood led by UN Environment, as well as on the International Advisory Committee of the Global Urban Food Policy Pact. In 2020, Richardson was appointed by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres to serve on the Advisory Committee for the 2021 Food Systems Summit, and to serve as Chair, Champions Network.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve worked in philanthropy my whole life including work with corporate, community, public, and private foundations. I’ve been blessed to have worked with both new and more established foundations, social profit organizations, and individuals who are deeply committed to developing powerful strategies to tackle some of the most pressing global, national, and local problems of our time. Having established the Unilever Canada Foundation, the Canadian Environmental Grantmakers’ Network, and Small Change Fund, I came to join the Global Alliance for the Future of Food.

In hindsight the threads that ran through all my various roles were ecological integrity, human well-being, and collaboration with food systems often touching these in important ways. This gave me the skills, experience, and opportunity to join the Global Alliance in 2013. Most of my work had been situated in Canada — from marine conservation to climate change in the context of the Arctic region to our settled southern landscapes — so I was thrilled to be able to take everything I learned here in Canada and apply that to an ambitious global agenda on food systems.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

It’s almost impossible to pick the most interesting story, or just one example. Since starting at the Global Alliance, the one thing I would elevate is the incredible array of interesting individuals I have had the fortune to meet and to learn from — everyone from peasant farmers in the high Andes to royal princes and princesses in Europe to inspiring business owners in India to researchers and journalists in Africa. For me, the people I come into contact with are what keep me inspired and motivated.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

I am a major fan of the systems-thinker and leading environmentalist Donella Meadows. Her work — especially Dancing With Systems — has held deep relevance for me and my work over the years. She was both a deep systems thinker and an incredibly effective communicator. For instance she once wrote: “We do not need a computer model to tell us that: we must not destroy the system upon which our sustenance depends; poverty is wrong and preventable; the exploitation of one person or nation by another degrades both the exploited and the exploiter; it is better for individuals and nations to cooperate than to fight; the love we have for all humankind and for future generations should be the same as our love for those close to us. If we do not embrace these principles and live by them, our system cannot survive. Our future is in our hands and will be no better or worse than we make it.” As relevant in 2021 as it was in 1982. The wisdom and insights imparted through her writing never fail to move and challenge me.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

Well, it’s not too far from the answer above! I think that principles are the greatest untapped guiding social technologies of our time. All too often, especially when faced with calamities such as climate change and global health pandemics, our instinct is to reach for solid answers, firm metrics, dependable pathways. We look to financial investments, innovation, commitments from governments, behavioural change, technology, policy reform.

These are reasonable, useful, and important responses. But time and again they are upheld as a solution without a cause. Financial investment to what end? Behavioural change to what end? Technology to what end? This is where principles come into play. Some say that principles are nice words but have little use, but I beg to differ. We need principles — such as equity, diversity, and resilience — to guide our direction so we arrive at a better place.

How do you think this will change the world?

The old ways of doing things aren’t working anymore. Problem = solution is just a narrow way to approach the world and it almost always, invariably, leads to more problems or compounds the issue it was trying to address in the first place! Too often action is ill-understood, or not acknowledged, or contrary to where we need to go to address the health, economic, and climate crises we face. In contrast, when used well, principles tell us where we need to go and how to get there. They are both the destination and the compass.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

I would hope that beautiful principles of decency, respect, etc. couldn’t lead to a Black Mirror episode but never say never… In all seriousness though, arriving on agreed principles takes time, hard work, and a commitment to deep listening and engagement. There’s an assumption that principles are “motherhood and apple-pie” statements that are and can be universally applied but they must be tailored to context, experience, and the purpose at hand.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

It was through the Global Alliance that I really saw the value of principles and how they can be put into action. The Global Alliance is a strategic alliance of philanthropic foundations and, in 2014, we needed a way to bring all of our members together on shared issues and areas of focus. In what proved to be an awkward day of workshops and arrival at an ultimate impasse, our evaluation advisor, Michael Quinn Patton, stepped in and steered us in the right direction suggesting that before we could collectively determine our pathway, we needed a set of principles to define where it was we were going. It was like a switch went on in peoples’ heads and we saw the path forward. This was a tipping point for the organization and our direction of travel to this day. We are now guided by an indivisible set of principles: renewability, resilience, equity, diversity, healthfulness, inclusion, and interconnectedness. These principles shape our vision of the future of food, express our values, and encompass the change we want to make. Many member foundations have also taken the principles forward in their day-to-day work, utilizing them to help them decide funding strategies, how to assess grant applications, even how to make investments with their endowments. As we often say, the principles are the beating heart of the Global Alliance.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

We need for people to understand their power and potential and see the utility of developing principles for various contexts and situations. This could be organizational or individual, or to guide teams or projects or awards. There is no end to how principles can be generated or applied.

We need for us, as a global community, to spend less time devoted to specific, singular solutions to any given problem, e.g., how to increase yields when it comes to growing crops which often leads to a narrow set of responses. Instead, we need to focus on systems change, understanding interconnections and dynamics and how to thus approach problems from that vantage point, which often leads to much more creative, multi-pronged solutions.

And, finally, we need collaborative spaces where we can simply just do it. We need to create spaces where individuals and organizations who care about the same goals — such as mitigating climate change or ending hunger or finding effective ways to roll back the biodiversity crisis — can come together to develop a set of principles that will guide these actions. Again, principles are the compass and the destination helping us both to define where it is we need to go and to guide us on the journey there.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. I wish someone had told me about principles! Had I known, and been more adept at determining and applying them, the Global Alliance may have been able to move more quickly toward our collective agenda.
  2. That said, I wish someone had told me to run too fast. The crises we face are urgent and so we tend to approach them as you would an emergency, which is appropriate. However, sometimes I’ve been working at such a pace I’ve missed the opportunity for deeper learning or important relationship-building.
  3. I wish someone had told me that we will not win because we are right but because we are organized. Tom Brookes, Executive Director, Strategic Communications at the European Climate Foundation, just wrote a brilliant article where he says “It makes sense that most of us think that if we can just communicate our point in a way that someone else understands, then they will accept the fact that we’re right. In reality, however, that does not work (and, indeed, never has). Changing perceptions is more important than winning an argument. A united perception can skip over who is right and who is wrong in pursuit of a mutual objective.”
  4. I wish someone had told me the secret to beating jet-lag and moving between time zones effortlessly.
  5. I wish someone had told me how gratifying this work would be, or maybe the gratification is in the discovery. I couldn’t have anticipated how blessed I feel to be able to do the work I do with the people I do it with on issues of such importance at this time in history.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

  1. Challenge the stories you tell yourself about what’s possible.
  2. Always consider what the opposite is of the situation you’re in and ask yourself what it tells you about the good, bad, and the ugly.
  3. Believe in goodness.
  4. Put a high value on integrity, collaboration, and building strong relationships.
  5. Dance with complexity.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would say: As efforts get underway to jumpstart the world’s economy after the COVID-19 pandemic and to repair health and social care systems, food systems investments become even more crucial, and investments from VCs, philanthropic, and other multilateral organizations could be much more strategic in leveraging public funds and addressing the needs of a fragmented market.

I would also somewhat simply challenge them to question whether their investments are reinforcing the systems that brought us to this place of collapse with COVID-19 or challenging the status quo? Investors of all stripes have a powerful opportunity to shift the system — and the opportunities to do so are plentiful. How can you make every dollar count to bring us a world with more diversity, equity, and resilience?

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Please follow me on @RuthOpenBlue and @futureoffoodorg

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

Thank you!


Principles: Ruth Richardson’s Big Idea That May Change The World In The Next Few Years was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Lauren Lefkowitz: Giving Feedback; How To Be Honest Without Being Hurtful

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be in contact with the employee during other times. This is especially important for remote employees. When employees and managers are in the office together, there is a natural opportunity for social run-ins — lunch, getting coffee, even passing in the hallway. For remote employees, social run-ins must be preplanned. I firmly believe that managers should be meeting with their teams, individually or as a group, at least weekly. If managers provide feedback regularly, it will be kinder and less frightening for them when constructive feedback comes.

As a part of our series about “How To Give Honest Feedback without Being Hurtful”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lauren Lefkowitz.

Lauren is a Career and Mindset Coach for professionals who want more from life than work, sleep, repeat. With 20 years of human resources management experience, Lauren turned a side-gig in coaching into a full-time business. Lauren’s work focuses on partnering with individuals, small groups and small businesses to support professionals who want to find joy, excitement, challenge and balance in their careers…and still have a personal life to love.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I started working in human resources (HR) as my fourth career (yes, you read that right!) during the first three years of my adult work life. After giving meeting planning, accounting, and sales a try, I was tapped on the shoulder inside my company to join the HR team.

I immediately fell in love with knowing my job was to support the people who support the people. In other words, I got to provide the back-end support to employees at all levels so that they could provide support to our products, services and customers. HR is a backbone job, for sure.

I loved my time in HR and especially thrived on the opportunity to support managers and employees in building productive relationships, providing honest feedback, and setting clear expectations.

After a 20-year career in HR and years of side-gigging in various aspects of career coaching, job search training, small business HR consulting, etc., I have recently transitioned to full time coaching, as a Career and Mindset Coach for people who want more from life than work, sleep, repeat.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

My company, Lauren Lefkowitz Coaching, offers people in the middle of their careers an opportunity to take a breath from their list of things to do, stop, spend time in the mirror, and make conscious decisions about how they want to participate in their own lives. So many people allow their lives to just happen to them. I argue that the opportunity is to happen to their own lives.

I work with clients on speaking up for themselves, setting boundaries, and finding balance and joy. Sometimes this means finding a new job or a new career, but more often, it means acknowledging that they want more than just reacting to work that comes their way — it means taking control and ownership over their lives, and making choices, including in how they approach their jobs.

I might be my own best success story — I hired a coach myself and shifted myself from working 80–100-hour weeks to working 40-hour weeks, creating new hobbies, and building the confidence to follow my dreams. And then I actually got to follow those dreams and take my part-time coaching gig to a full-time business. I’m a better coach for it.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

In my last HR job, I was joining an organization that had never had an HR function before. They had grown enough know they needed HR, but they weren’t certain exactly why. On my first day, the CEO said to me, “I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do here, but I know we need you.” I responded, “Luckily, I know what to do, so if you set me loose, I’ll take care of everything.” It was such a rewarding opportunity to build a department and function from scratch, show the organization how having an HR department could positively impact employees, and be able to offer both strategic and tactical opportunities for HR impact.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One that wasn’t funny when it happened, but has been funny my whole career since was when I was late to my interview for the job that led to my ultimate career path. I was about four minutes late, and I was hoping they wouldn’t notice (they did). I thought about the whole interview (and no one said anything, so I thought I was in the clear). The interview was great, I was hired, and a few months in, my supervisor mentioned that she had noticed I was late to the interview, but it was such a good interview that she was willing to overlook it. That was the job which led to my HR career, so I am forever grateful for her grace in letting my four-minute delay go. We laughed about it then — and more than 20 years later, it still comes up as a joke between us!

When I moved into HR (and this supervisor became one of my internal clients!), the lesson I took with me was to offer grace to those who were just a bit late, especially if they owned up to it (unlike I did!).

What advice would you give to other CEOs and business leaders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

Be a human. Your team(s) will respect you for it, appreciate your leadership in showing your humanity, and you’ll be more likeable. Take sick days; go to your kid’s t-ball game or school play; cut out early once in a while and be unavailable for the afternoon. When you’re on vacation, actually be on vacation. This sets the example for your employees that it’s also okay for them to be human, that it’s encouraged for them to have a life outside of work, to take time off, to be out of touch.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership combines the ability to know and share knowledge in a constructive way, to not know and share that with honesty and vulnerability, to partner instead of manage, to lead instead of instruct, to ask instead of demand, to give acknowledgement instead of collect credit.

A leader is someone you recognize as a person you want to emulate in some way.

In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?

Others are surprised to learn that I meditate — and I didn’t always. I began practicing meditation about a year ago, ‘practice’ being the key word there! When I first started, I would open one eye every few minutes to see how long I had been doing it. Clearly, that’s not the goal! My first instinct was to quit on it because I didn’t think I could be patient enough to finish a single session, let alone actually be in it.

With time, practice, and learning what kind of meditation serves me best, I now thrive in meditation. I get some of my best ideas while I’m meditating, and I’ve learned for myself that having a notebook nearby and being willing to open both eyes when an idea sparks has helped me come up with some of my best work!

I also learned that meditation helps me sleep more deeply and feel more focused. And sometimes, I still open one eye to see how long I’ve been doing it. I’m a work in progress.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Can you briefly tell our readers about your experience with managing a team and giving feedback?

The core of my work has been in HR management, but I have also been the manager (or interim manager) for several departments, including finance, marketing, information technology, meeting planning and others. Because of this, I have had the opportunity to manage a diversity of skillsets and personalities. As HR, I also act as an advisor for managers and employees on topics including ‘how to’ conversations about giving positive feedback, constructive feedback, or feedback that immediate improvement is needed. I have also worked with employees on managing up (giving feedback to their own managers), managing a manager who has to give feedback to an employee and more.

This might seem intuitive but it will be constructive to spell it out. Can you share with us a few reasons why giving honest and direct feedback is essential to being an effective leader?

Offering employees honest and direct feedback eliminates assumptions and wonder. It offers employees a sure understanding of where they stand, what is going well, what needs to improve, and ideally, also offers them support and resources for growth and improvement.

Employees who wonder about where they stand may be more self-critical about their work or may be ignoring areas that need improvement.

A great leader offers the balance of both positive and constructive feedback so that employees always understand how things are going, don’t feel surprised at annual review time, and receive feedback in a timely manner so that they can make changes in real time.

One of the trickiest parts of managing a team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. Can you please share with us five suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee? Kindly share a story or example for each.

Technology allows us to communicate with remote employees in much the same way we have communicated in person. With the opportunity to use video, relationships can be built in a richer way than in the past, when phones and email were our only options.

Here are five suggestions about how to give constructive or corrective feedback to a remote (or really any!) employee (https://youtu.be/pzbcdY90dKw)

  1. Be quick. Do not save up a whole bunch of constructive or corrective feedback and bombard the employee with a list of everything that is going wrong with their work. Let’s imagine a non-work scenario to demonstrate. Saving up your feedback would be like having your partner burn your dinner and you responding with all of the ways they aren’t a good partner. For example, “Joe, dinner is burned, and you forgot to put the clothes in the dryer two weeks ago, and you got us lost in the woods on that vacation six months ago, and you never take out the trash, and your feet smell.” That’s a lot of blowback for one burned dinner!
  2. Be honest. This seems obvious, but so often, the feedback giver is worried about hurting the employee’s feelings and instead, they only tell half the story about what requires improvement. Or, the manager fixes the problem for the employee so the employee never even knows there was a problem, and then the issue gets repeated. Let’s say an employee sends in Excel spreadsheets weekly, and the work is correct, but the formatting is all wrong. The manager does the formatting himself, becomes resentful that he has extra work on his plate, and the employee never knows a problem exists. This could all be pre-solved by telling the employee the first time it happens that it needs to be corrected.
  3. Be in contact with the employee during other times. This is especially important for remote employees. When employees and managers are in the office together, there is a natural opportunity for social run-ins — lunch, getting coffee, even passing in the hallway. For remote employees, social run-ins must be preplanned. I firmly believe that managers should be meeting with their teams, individually or as a group, at least weekly. If managers provide feedback regularly, it will be kinder and less frightening for them when constructive feedback comes.
  4. Be very clear. Make sure the employee knows what requires improvement exactly and also what improvement looks like. This means, “The Excel report you send in every week is not formatted properly. Going forward, the header has to be green with bold print, the columns need to be autofitted, and the links to other sheets must be double checked.” If the feedback is vague, the employee will only know that it’s wrong, but not what to do to make it right.
  5. Be kind, but don’t sugar coat. Be a kind human being. So simple, but not always easy if you, as the manager, have gotten heat for the employee’s performance or if this is not the first time you’re addressing an issue. You can be strong about the need to improve without demonstrating anger, without humiliating the employee, and with compassion and understanding.

Do not, under any circumstances, use the ‘sandwich method’ to tell someone they need to improve. For those who have not heard of this, when the sandwich method is used, the manager ‘sandwiches’ the negative feedback in between two positive points. For example, “Jim, you’re so nice to work with and everyone here really likes you, but X, Y and Z accounting errors that you are making are costing us money in audit and those need to be fixed immediately, but you’re so great at PowerPoint!” Being kind doesn’t mean softening the feedback or hiding inside a sandwich of niceties. It just means demonstrating compassion and care as you deliver it.

How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

If the feedback is very concrete, as in editing a document or providing feedback on graphics, be very clear in an email about what your changes are/what needs to be improved without adding judgement. For example, “I edited this Word document quite a lot. Please see my tracked changes attached. I’d like to talk about the style of writing for this kind of document in the future so there won’t be so many edits next time.” And not, “I’m pretty sure you wrote this when you were tired, because this is terrible! Let’s talk.” Both ways get the message across, but the first will be more effective in creating positive change and offering yourself as manager as an approachable ally.

More qualitative feedback, such as addressing a behavioral concern or giving a more formal performance warning simply should not be done over email. If this kind of feedback needs to be given, a simple email that reads, “Let’s set up a time to chat about _____.” Or, “I’d like to talk further about the Excel project. Let’s schedule a time.”

In your experience, is there a best time to give feedback or critique? Should it be immediately after an incident? Should it be at a different time? Should it be at set intervals? Can you explain what you mean?

Ideally, managers are having at least weekly meetings with their direct reports (or, for larger teams, at least monthly). If that is the case, feedback, both positive and negative, so it won’t come as a surprise when a regular meeting includes both. This means that on an annual review, employees should not be surprised by any of the feedback they receive because they have been receiving feedback all year. Urgent feedback that requires immediate action should be handled more quickly with an impromptu phone call or video call.

The key indicator here for managers is this: if you are losing sleep over something and dreading giving the feedback, it means you should be giving it now and not waiting until a next scheduled meeting.

How would you define what it is to “be a great boss”? Can you share a story?

A great boss is a person who brings his/her/their whole self to work. This doesn’t mean your employees need to know every detail of your life. This means when you’re having a bad day, you’re willing to share that you’re having a bad day. This means you are empathetic when an employee is having a hard time. It means you take time to interact when things are going well, when something needs improvement, when you feel like just saying hello. Being a great boss means showing your humanity.

A couple of years ago, I had a freak accident during which I broke both of my shoulders. I was out of work for three months and it took an additional two months for me to be back full time. My boss told me, and meant it, to take care of myself first. He took responsibility for redistributing my work, checked in on me often, and offered an unbelievable amount of flexibility for me when I returned. He was so kind and caring about it, and I knew that my recovery absolutely came first in his mind.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We are given the opportunity to make choices in every moment of every day. How much work we put into work is a choice. How we allow our bosses to treat us is a choice. If we decide to do nothing and simply react to the world around us, we are still making a choice. You are allowed to make the choice to react to your life as it comes or to be proactive and make new choices from a place of power.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My current favorite is, “There is only this moment. And this moment. And this one.” People like me (including me) fill our heads with, “What’s on our calendar? What’s coming up next? What’s after that?” that it’s challenging to stay in the moment. The moments are amazing — the moments are where we share joy, laughter, grief, love. And if we’re always jumping ahead (or reflecting back) we miss the most beautiful moments. This quote, which I can’t attribute to anyone in particular, but which lives in many guided meditations, becomes my mantra when my day or week starts to invade my moments.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I am super active on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/llefkowitz. I’m also on Instagram @relaunchyourcareer and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/laurenlefkowitzcoaching. My website is https://www.laurenlefkowitzcoach.com

Thank you for these great insights! We really appreciate the time you spent with this.


Lauren Lefkowitz: Giving Feedback; How To Be Honest Without Being Hurtful was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Pascale Nini of Immervision On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: Pascale Nini of Immervision On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Don’t put limits on yourself. Creating artificial ceilings can be one of the greatest stumbling blocks to innovation. To be an effective leader, you must often think outside of the realm of possibility, to find new ways to innovate, and come up with solutions to problems that have not yet been solved. This has enabled us to evolve from our R&D roots to become the largest, independent advanced vision company in the world. We have over 26 patents, and have partnered with some of the biggest technology brands — including Qualcomm, Motorola, Intel and many others.

As a part of our series about cutting-edge technological breakthroughs I had the pleasure of interviewing Pascale Nini.

Pascale Nini is the CEO of Immervision, the pioneer and leader in advanced vision systems. Immervision unlocks the ability for machines to perceive the world around them, by strategically partnering with companies to develop, integrate and license Immervision’s wide-angle optical design, image processing and sensor fusion technologies. Twenty years ago, Pascale seized the emerging trend in wide-angle vision, and today Immervision’s technology is used in smartphones, automotives, robotics, and other commercial and consumer products worldwide.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Absolutely. I began my career in mathematics and clinical psychology while in France. While I thoroughly enjoyed working in this field, I had a strong desire to become an entrepreneur. My father was an entrepreneur, and it led to me starting a company, which I eventually sold.

After this experience, my next goal was to find an opportunity in the tech industry, which was a sector that I was drawn towards. I met the initial founders of Immervision in 2000, and I found the pioneering idea of the company — which was to design wide-angle camera lenses that could be used in virtually any application and in any industry — so new and compelling that I became their first investor, using the money I’d made selling my own company. Over time, I continued to advise and support them, and eventually became the CEO of Immervision in 2003, based in Quebec, Canada.

Today, I’m proud to say that Immervision has continued to lead the industry through its unparalleled expertise in advanced vision systems, which we’ve cultivated over the past 20 years. We can develop, integrate and license our technologies, helping our partners and customers to accelerate innovations in machine vision. We are the largest, independent advanced vision system company in the world.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

When I initially invested in Immervision, I recognized that the company was on the cutting-edge of what was possible in advanced vision systems, but looking back, I didn’t realize the full extent of how advanced Immervision was compared to anything else in the market. Rather, over the years, the tech industry has caught up to now being able to truly take advantage of machine vision and perception.

One example of where we were ahead of the curve was when we conducted virtual, 360-degree demos of our technology, using military-grade headsets. At the time these headsets were incredibly clunky, which affected the user experience. Fast forward to many years later, and Facebook announced that it had acquired virtual reality (VR) headset company Oculus, in a $2 billion deal. Today, nearly 10,000 people are working on augmented or virtual reality devices at Facebook — nearly one-fifth of its total global workforce! It’s shown how far we’ve come from VR being viewed as a fad to one that is continuing to see more excitement and traction for both consumers and businesses. VR is just one of many technologies that uses advanced vision systems to give devices true machine perception.

Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

We’ve established the Immervision InnovationLab that includes multidisciplinary and highly-experienced scientists, optical designers and engineers who are steadfastly focused on integrating all aspects of a vision system together, so that we can design solutions for any application and environment.

Our work is focused on continuing to push the boundaries of what’s possible, by increasing the functionalities of our advanced vision systems while reducing the size of the optical designs themselves. This means that we’re constantly breaking through with new vision systems that can fit into increasingly smaller devices (like smartphones and other consumer electronics). We’re also working with customers in the automotive/mobility sector, to create systems that can help a vehicle navigate and make lightning-speed decisions based on what they’re seeing on the road.

At Immervision, we believe that we’re at a major turning point for machine autonomy. Wide-angle optical designs and imaging processing technologies play a central role in giving machines the situational awareness to have human-like perception to make decisions. It’s an exciting time to be working in this field, knowing we’re barely scratching the surface of our technology’s potential.

How do you think this might change the world?

Over the last 20 years, I’ve seen that incorporating vision into machines has evolved from being on the periphery to one that is central to the next generation of devices. The ability for machines to master vision is seen as the next big technological breakthrough, touted as a once-in-a-generation disruption, and its applications in commercial and consumer applications are virtually limitless. Enabling machines to do automated tasks with a high level of security and human comfort will ultimately provide the opportunity for us to focus on new goals and aspirations.

For example, recently we unveiled JOYCE , a humanoid robot that is equipped with ultra wide-angle cameras, which can be used by developers, universities and technology companies to solve computer vision challenges. By incorporating our advanced vision systems into a human-like device, JOYCE can be used in a variety of ways — from helping patients who need emergency care in hospitals, to other situations that require contextual awareness.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Many technologies can be viewed as having potential drawbacks, particularly when they are at the cutting edge. At Immervision, our view is that we provide solutions that can advance machines — and humanity — forward in a positive direction. By providing machines with “deep-seeing” capabilities — whether it’s for drones to capture images in hard-to-reach places overhead, space rovers to travel the surface of new planets, or driverless vehicles to navigate users to safety — we’re just scratching the surface with our technology.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

The breakthrough moment was when Immervision shifted its focus away from pure R&D to licensing and commercializing our technology. For a long time, we were primarily focused on offering wide-angle optics and image processing. Because of this expertise, we were able to create complete advanced vision systems for a variety of applications and industries.

Today, the market has caught up, and machine vision is recognized as a huge, untapped opportunity — vision data is expected to be a major driver of Industry 4.0, which is expected to deliver between $1.2 trillion to $3.7 trillion in potential value by 2025 worldwide. I’m excited to see what the next 20 years holds for machine vision and perception.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

I think we’re on the right track to reach widespread adoption, seeing all the signals in the market. One of our top priorities is to continue to cultivate and expand our team of talented, multidisciplinary scientists, optical designers and engineers who strategically partner with our clients (we’ve partnered with over 133 companies to date, including Qualcomm, CEVA, Motorola and many others) to work from high-level applications requirements to set the specs for advanced vision systems in devices. Additionally, through our commitment to integrating the traditionally siloed areas of computer vision, AI and sensor data among companies, we see our role in bringing our end-to-end expertise to help accelerate machine vision innovation to power a range of devices.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

Our launch of JOYCE has been a major milestone to highlight how the computer vision community can work together to help machines gain human-like perception. In the future, we plan to do live streaming videos with JOYCE on social media networks, to give viewers the opportunity to see the “behind-the-scenes” of this technology in real-time.

Additionally, we’ve also promoted our innovative work with brands — from Intel, CEVA, the U.S. Department of Defense and more. For example, with the U.S. Department of Defense, we partnered with them to develop computer vision wide-angle systems for commercial and defense drones, which can operate in low-light settings.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have had several mentors throughout my life. My father has been a huge inspiration for me — he taught me to not create an artificial ceiling to my ambition, and to also impart that philosophy to those I worked with. He taught me to strive to reach my goals — no matter how lofty these may seem — and to never give up. In business, the path is never straight or easy, so perseverance is key.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I’ve been honored to be a mentor to aspiring entrepreneurs throughout my career. I’ve been very involved with a number of organizations devoted to women entrepreneurship, and giving them the tools and insights to become successful leaders. I’ve also worked with entrepreneurs in Quebec to help them hone their investment strategies in the early stages of their business. I enjoy working with founders at this stage and seeing how their companies flourish from a kernel of an idea to one that has a comprehensive plan, go-to-market strategy and the elements to grow and succeed.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Don’t put limits on yourself. Creating artificial ceilings can be one of the greatest stumbling blocks to innovation. To be an effective leader, you must often think outside of the realm of possibility, to find new ways to innovate, and come up with solutions to problems that have not yet been solved. This has enabled us to evolve from our R&D roots to become the largest, independent advanced vision company in the world. We have over 26 patents, and have partnered with some of the biggest technology brands — including Qualcomm, Motorola, Intel and many others.
  2. The road to entrepreneurship is neither linear nor peaceful. The journey for an entrepreneur feels less like walking down a straight road, and more like hiking an obstacle-laden mountain. To succeed as an entrepreneur, you must adapt constantly to survive and grow. The constant changes in the market, industry trends and macroeconomic trends means that there will also be bumps in the road — particularly as technology is so fast-paced — but this also poses new opportunities along the way.
  3. Specialize in solutions. Being an entrepreneur and a CEO is not easy. Often, you’ll find that you are not only presented with new challenges, and may have to walk down uncharted paths to arrive at the best solution. At Immervision, our partners and customers frequently ask us to design, develop and integrate vision systems that have never been done before — and that means that we’re always pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.
  4. Sometimes you need to trust your instincts. Being a CEO can sometimes be an isolating experience, especially when you need to make difficult executive decisions. Over the years, I’ve learned to amass the right team, resources and insights that have helped propel and expand the business, enabling us to be in millions of vision-based consumer and commercial devices around the world.
  5. Surround yourself with the right team. It may sound cliche, but having the right team to complement and challenge you is critical for your growth, and the growth of the company. At Immervision, I’m honored to have a senior leadership team who have been working alongside me for well over a decade, and a successful board of advisors. Whether it’s looking at expanding into a new industry, innovating our technology or any other strategic priority, our team is focused on tackling every opportunity.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I truly believe that JOYCE is the start of a movement to bring the computer vision community together to give machines vision and perception. We’re still scratching the surface of what the possibilities could be for humanoid robots to be in industries as varied as security, medical, automotives, and much more.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Never give up” is a phrase that I have instilled in my company. It is an attitude that I aim to embody, to set an example for my entire team. Regardless of your role, if you are able to think outside of the box and turn a challenge into an opportunity, then it can help put you on the path to success.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

At Immervision, we specialize in bringing eyes — vision and perception — to machines. We are the only company in the world that understands advanced vision systems through the entire camera pipeline. This means that we offer comprehensive expertise in optical design, image processing, and sensor fusion technologies to accelerate machine vision.

Today, computer vision is still viewed as a huge, untapped opportunity, with the total addressable market expected to reach US$48.32 billion by 2023, at a compound annual growth rate of 31.65%. It’s abundantly clear that the industry is rapidly moving towards giving machines real-time vision and perception, and as the first to pioneer this movement, we are poised to equip the next generation of devices with this innovation.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Immervision’s Social Media:

LinkedIn

Twitter

Facebook

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: Pascale Nini of Immervision On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Rising Through Resilience: Nick Hamilton On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Survival is what helped cement my resilience. Before I went to live with my grandparents, I grew up at a time where survival for the fittest was the only way. I have many fond memories of my childhood neighborhood but there were also many difficulties. The surrounding areas weren’t always good. I was harassed near certain gang areas from members and cops, I was shot at and threatened with guns, but I refused to be a statistic. I have a lot of things to say; I couldn’t allow anyone to silence my voice.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Nick Hamilton.

Nick Hamilton is the go-to sports and entertainment journalist and founder of Nitecast Media. Nitecast Media is a black-owned digital media platform that offers sports and pop culture enthusiasts access to exclusive content and interviews. Nick strives to broadcast real stories about rising athletes, entertainers, and global leaders that mainstream media refuses to air.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

My grandmother raised me in a house she bought in the 60s in a neighborhood where she was the first black person. My parents are hardworking people and have always valued integrity, character, and the ability to make your own opinions. They are the reason for my resilience and my thirst for mass accessible information. But not everyone was supportive. I was told I would never be good enough.

With the support of my family and their lessons, I betted on myself and went back to school to try again, and I got my degree. I now have over ten years of experience. I’ve worked on significant outlets like NBC and iHeartMedia, covered all major sport and pop culture events, became a member of Pro Football Writers of America and National Association of Black Journalists, and am a founder of multiple successful podcasts.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I believe the most interesting and lasting moment of my career has to be the first time I was on the red carpet. To meet my idols and be given the opportunity to ask them questions was phenomenal. I also learned you have to be as diverse as you can to make the most of this opportunity. When you are diverse, you have a wide range of questions you can ask so every celebrity you see, you can connect with. Being able to switch keeps you in the loop and will give you numerous interesting stories to tell.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I believe the content we cover and the impact we have on our society and communities sets Nitecast Media apart from other media hubs. We have the dedication and drive to bring consistent real stories about rising athletes, entertainers, and global leaders. We are also a black-owned media rather than black-targeted, meaning that we share and tell our stories of success and resistance instead of only tragedy and violence. I know we impact society; I see it in my son’s eyes every day. He always asks when I am going on TV. I know we are creating changes. Like my son, I hope to inspire black kids, help them in their journey of life, and show them that you don’t have to wait on anyone to realize your dreams.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

In my journey to success, I am grateful to my mentor, Eric Wade, may God rest his soul. When I first started, he took a chance with me and brought me along. He showed me new skills that I still use today. He was patient and incredibly gifted. From our mentorship we became friends. He would always remind me that the greatest gift I can give to myself is “Always stay connected.”

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Growing up, I faced many challenges that attempted to stop my growth and success. With every setback, my resolution strengthened ten folds. I was determined to get to my address, and I refused to take no for an answer. But most of all, I refused to be ignored. For years black and brown voices have been silenced, talked over, and incorrectly recorded. I was rejected by potential business partners more times than should be allowed, but I refused to quit. My willingness to persevere towards making my vision a reality brought me the success I have now. I was not always the most popular choice, but I took my destiny into my own hands, never waited for anyone, and networked my ass off to continuously build my allies and partners. I sacrificed my time, money, and sleep to get to that next level. I hurt my relationship with my friends and family, but I was determined to keep people in my circle, and I was willing to listen to advice. That is resilience. You always have to gain something when you bounce back. If the experience doesn’t change you for the better, you’ll just be stuck replaying that same loss.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

When I think of resilience, I think of my mom. She was always the kind of person to see the good in people despite what she may see or was told. You never know if there was a misunderstanding or misinformation. She was always passionate about making her own opinions and finding the most accurate information before spreading information. I learned a lot from her, most just from observing. She lit the fire that builds the foundation of my business and she never stops her journey until it’s done.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

When I first began, someone told me that I would never be able to cover major sports teams, that I was never going to be good enough, nor have what it takes to be a success. I won’t lie, my spite fueled me. In the end, I covered every major sports team and event out there. Some teams I still work with to this day.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

One of the greatest betrayal and setbacks I ever encountered in my career was when someone stole my ideas for multiple shows. By the time I found out, there was nothing I could legally do. They went through every channel to get the rights to my ideas. I was angry for a while, a long while, but when I released that anger, fresh ideas flooded into my head. I created better shows that are still on today and broadcasted through various platforms.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resilience? Can you share a story?

Survival. Survival is what helped cement my resilience. Before I went to live with my grandparents, I grew up at a time where survival for the fittest was the only way. I have many fond memories of my childhood neighborhood but there were also many difficulties. The surrounding areas weren’t always good. I was harassed near certain gang areas from members and cops, I was shot at and threatened with guns, but I refused to be a statistic. I have a lot of things to say; I couldn’t allow anyone to silence my voice.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

The five steps to become more resilient are very common thoughts that aren’t taken as seriously as they should be. For one, you have to live your truth and be the person you want to be. That will always be the first step. When you allow others to dictate who you are as a person, you lose the control to heal and fight back. The second is giving yourself the ability to think for yourself. Never allow others to think for you. Anything you hear, try to verify for yourself. When you do this, you find out you know yourself far more than you’ve previously thought before. No one knows you better than you, and no one should be able to. Thirdly, don’t be afraid to fail. Build from your failures. That is the best thing you can do to bounce back from a loss. When you learn from your mistakes, you learn how to use what you know in multiple ways. Every disadvantage can be your advantage. Fourth, you have to learn how to be selfless. When you are able to give others advice and tools, you help elevate them. Every knowledge or failure can help another. This will give you an ally in the most unlikely scenarios. Lastly, learn when to take breaks. Exercise, meditation, do what you love to ground yourself in the moment and not be swiped away. When you lose yourself, you will only hurt your business and staff.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good it would be a media school for the youth in my community. A media school is a great way to show kids how to utilize what they are good at for career experience and skills. It will teach them how to be multifaceted. This kind of information isn’t really thought of nor how great the youth can benefit from it. If our communities had programs like these, we would be seeing a lot more black professionals and entrepreneurs.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

There are so many people I look up to and would like to meet for a private breakfast or lunch. I can hardly count how many. But one I am most eager to meet is Gary Vee. He is very practical in his logic and reasoning, and incredibly effective in finding the work and life solutions. I would LOVE to pick his brain and find out how he got this knowledge, what started his passion in his field, and how he overcame the challenges he faced.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

They can reach out to me in both my personal and professional Instagram. For personal, look for @nickhamiltonla and for business, @nitecastmedia. I’m always happy to connect.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Rising Through Resilience: Nick Hamilton On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Sheri Sullivan of Ernst & Young On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake…

The Future Is Now: Sheri Sullivan of Ernst & Young On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Focus on supporting and building a great team. This is one of the most important things you can do. I’ve learned that you can be much more powerful when you help others succeed by encouraging initiatives and removing boundaries.

As part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sheri Sullivan, Global Payroll Operate Leader, Ernst & Young, LLP.

Sheri Sullivan is a global payroll pioneer and has over 20 years of experience. She leads EY Global Payroll Operate, which provides companies with global workforce supply chain solutions facilitating accuracy, timeliness, agility, visibility, proactive data insights and regulatory compliance in a secure way that leverages the latest technologies.

Sheri’s background includes competency building, leading global advisory, and delivery, e.g., business process outsourcing (BPO) like people and payroll services and managing employees in every geographic territory. This is the third global managed service team she has run.

Sheri holds an Executive MBA from the State University of New York at Buffalo — School of Management. She has worked and lived in over 67 countries around the globe.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Payroll is key to any business and interfaces with employees more than any other function — and while I never thought I would explore the intricacies of payroll as a defined career path, I am so happy that I did. I entered the field in December 2000 as part of Paychex’s effort to build out international and secondary markets (US). I joined their corporate team and during the first year went through the PAYX payroll learning academy to learn more about payroll (and even how to hand calculate it). Joining a mature, process and client-focused company specializing in payroll was a great way to learn about leading practices and the industry. I spent over seven years at Paychex setting up and running their international businesses and helping the company expand into secondary markets. Prior to 2000, global payroll had predominately been managed by in-house local teams or by local accounting groups as a managed service solution. Yet, these solutions and the technology infrastructure behind each, have remained mostly static with only small improvements since then. The field has been ripe for disruption for quite some time and the growing importance of visibility, harmonization of processes and control for business leaders has allowed for true innovation. Looking back, as someone who loves to solve difficult problems and add value, payroll truly was the perfect niche for me.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I have had many interesting experiences in my career with most centered around client service and managing complex projects with diverse teams. When I served as the CEO of Intercomp’s Global Services, I had the opportunity to lead a team through a difficult situation where individuals, including myself, were personally threatened.

Intercomp provided multi-national clients payroll, bookkeeping, legal and HR services in over 76 countries. On Thanksgiving morning several government workers showed up at one of Intercomp’s offices and tried to bribe our team. Intercomp’s fully managed payroll service provided treasury services for clients to help with timely payments due to regulatory agencies, third parties and employees. During a nine-month period, our team was threatened with bodily harm and injury, the company was threatened with regulatory labor inspection shutdowns and subject to governmental audits.

Eventually all claims were dismissed by a high court because there was no wrongdoing and we did not lose any clients. During this stressful time, I really learned how to step up in a leadership role and develop a high performing team that was ultimately able to triumph in an extreme adversarial condition.

Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

When I joined EY in 2017 as a direct admit Partner, I was helping clients develop and execute Time to Pay end- to-end future service delivery models. Shortly after, I was tasked with leading EY’s Global Payroll Operate solution. Having spent the last two decades of my career in this field, I’ve witnessed first-hand how vendors have not kept pace with providing the solutions and technology needed to help clients transform their business. So, I knew that to be successful, we would need to build and partner with other companies to create the solutions and tools that were lacking in the market.

As a managed service offering, EY Global Payroll Operate has been working on the following technology breakthroughs:

  1. EY Payroll Operate’s new technology, EY Interact, is a global mobile app that provides pay slips, tax documents, personalized reports, and an AI chatbot to help answer questions in over 49 languages. EY Interact, allows organizations to access real-time reporting, analytics, and payroll controls to check each production, run, review discrepancies and anomalies, and even use the data to add organizational value such as attrition prediction, gender reporting and equality. The app also includes the specific regulatory required features for specific countries, helping to take employee communication and unique user experiences to the next level.
  2. EY Payroll Command Center is a one-stop payroll “administrator cockpit” that manages end-to-end workflow processes and tasks. It connects clients with the EY country subject matter regulatory experts and payroll processing teams, automates service level agreements and performance metrics, provides regulatory law updates, and leverages the EY one global data model and data tools (DigiPay) to provide company insights and more.
  3. EY has developed a gross to net payroll engine called PEYtal, currently servicing 15 countries and leveraging the latest cloud infrastructures and technologies. This system is configured to set up payroll specifics quickly and easily by employees and therefore able to handle complex working schemes and “the future of work.”

New innovations that we are releasing are detailed below:

1. EY’s source to gross “Shoebox tool”:

  • Allows “shoebox” unstructured input transformation, ingestion, and automated missing data imputation.
  • Organize data and provide traceable, auditable data lineage.
  • Identifies potential mistakes and missing data at the source.

2. Reverse engineering:

  • Transforms current onboarding approach and implementation activities from client’s prior vendor or in-house system.
  • Uses historical payroll reports to recreate payroll engine configurations.
  • Provides assurance on payroll engine setup and identify non compliant taxation treatments.
  • Identifies prior compliance issues that need to be rectified.

3. Automated control totals:

  • Expands EY’s current control totals to add fraud and anomaly detection. Proactively highlights potential error patterns for investigation and remediation.
  • Leverages AI and Machine Learning to continuously improve error detection.
  • Monitors data flow from inputs to payroll preview and verifies everything at payroll finalization.

How do you think this might change the world?

These innovations will disrupt the market by the following:

  1. Reduce cost and time to implement/change the current payroll state helping clients move more quickly to their future service delivery model.
  2. Increases the accuracy and timeliness of source to gross collection and therefore, the overall payroll.
  3. Moves payroll toward a one touch (approval only) format where control totals are not only automated but were the machine provides the suggested solution or fixes to any errors as well.
  4. All the solutions will end manual efforts. The transition to a fully automated payroll will allow companies to have greater controls and compliance while reducing risk. Finally, we anticipate there will be an increase in positive overall employee user experience and trust around payroll.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

New technology means that the responsibilities of payroll teams will change. Payroll teams will transition to being problem solvers and data technicians — working end-to-end process improvement and stakeholder management. Ultimately, these “new and improved” teams will play a key role in utilizing the rich data contained within payroll to help with analysis, trends, and overall business decisions.

Another area of discussion centers around the future of employee personal data. We think the employee will eventually hold all their data within their own smart phones. Yet, there are ethical conversations to be had around what systems or companies should hold this information and how to prevent data from being harnessed for the wrong reasons. In all, the goal is to bring balance to any potential situations.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

There was really no tipping point for these developments — it was a accumulation of a lot of listening and understanding the needs and frustrations of clients from the last 20 years. When we took a step back, it was obvious what products and services were needed to help address these client needs and provide them with the benefits they desired. Fortunately, EY has the regulatory expertise and the breadth of connected services to be in the perfect position to connect the dots and prescribe this roadmap.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

The EY Payroll Operate business has grown over 57% CAGR and is now a major player in the market, but still relatively unknown as a global payroll managed services player. We are currently working to increase market awareness of the technology and our offering.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

If you talk with any of our clients, they will tell you that we’ve been in “stealth” mode over the last three years. In that time, our focus has been on developing and refining our technology solutions to best suit business needs.

In May, we officially launched to market with a global analyst briefing/event. Our marketing strategy includes developing thought leadership and contributing to articles, such as this one, around the globe.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have been blessed with incredible mentors throughout my career and personal life. Certainly, my family and spouse have played a large part too. As my support system, it’s nice to know my family is on the sidelines cheering me on.

It’s also so important to recognize my amazing team members who have not only worked with me for years, but they’ve grown with me too.

There are really so many people that have been part of my journey and supported me along the way. However, If I must pick one (or a couple), I must thank Tom Golisano, founder of Paychex, who not only brought me into the payroll world, but taught me how to run a true client-centric payroll managed services organization that can scale and grow. Finally, the EY senior tax leadership and specifically Kate Barton, EY Global Vice Chair, Tax and Jim Hunter, EY Global Compliance and Reporting Leader for all their support, guidance, direction, and challenges.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

As a woman leader, I have become more aware of the inequalities around diversity and inclusion within organizations. For most of my career, I have held a global leadership role and I have placed an emphasis on what I can do to build a better working world.

I’ve sponsored women to help with their career progression. I became a founding member of SheCAN!, a not-for-profit dedicated to empowering women through personal and professional development, health and wellness and positive mindset. I’ve spoken as a keynote speaker to provide other business leaders with the tools and understanding to help move toward equality. I served on many not-for-profit boards including the WEDI Buffalo board, which supports entrepreneurship, capital funding and business mentorship for displaced immigrants as they work toward re-establishing their business concepts in America. I’ve also worked as an adjunct professor for several universities including Webster University in Austria, teaching business entrepreneurship.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.

Do we have all day? (Kidding!) A few things I wish someone told me before I started:

  1. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Be your authentic self and find your purpose early on. I was a leader at a young age and guarded around my personal life instead of embracing and showing my vulnerabilities (which I know now, is a good quality to have as a leader). I’ve always moved at a very fast pace both personally and professionally. At the beginning of my career, I felt like I was judged because of this. Many years ago, I read the book, Orbiting the Giant Hairball, by Gordon MacKenzie which helped me to identify how to bring my authentic self to work and still add value to the organization. This inspired me to be less guarded, more open, and an overall better leader.
  2. Question everything. Every question you ask could be the drop that starts a ripple of action, innovation, and fresh thinking. Those drops can change the world! EY’s purpose of Building a Better Working World and constantly asking better questions truly resonates with me because I am very intellectually curious.
  3. Focus on supporting and building a great team. This is one of the most important things you can do. I’ve learned that you can be much more powerful when you help others succeed by encouraging initiatives and removing boundaries.
  4. Focus on listening to clients and bring them along on your journey. I’ve found that you need to listen when you are working with your clients, since you are ultimately building a partnership with them.
  5. Have fun on your journey! I love what I do — and I am grateful that I’ve never been in a professional situation where I didn’t love what I was doing. In about 99% of my working career, I’ve had fun and I think this is very important. Clients want to work with someone who is fun and passionate. Your teams want to work with someone who’s enthusiastic. Focus on having fun every day!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I find that a movement usually starts with one brave soul and a small act. I love the pay it forward concept — sometimes it’s the smallest kindness and gesture that makes a difference in someone’s life. I’d want to start a larger movement around paying it forward — then, build a global community focused on doing kind, graceful acts. With an act of kindness, you do it without expecting anything in return. Just knowing your gracious act is helping someone in need is the reward.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have two quotes. The first quote is from Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” You have the power to make change and it’s all about how your actions benefit others.

The second quote is from Friederike Fabritius, a neuroscientist who says, “In order to be in top performance, you need the right amount of fear, focus and fun, and everyone has a different quotient.”

For me, I know this works since I need the balance of all three to be at my peak performance. For one, I thrive in a crisis and can think on my feet. I also love what I do (hence the fun part), and I focus rather intently on solving problems. When I have all three, I am at the top of my game.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

The next evolution of employment and types of workforce supply chain is going to be driven by employees and not employers. Therefore, to embrace and harness this future, there are many innovations that are needed (i.e. employees will eventually hold all their data within their own smart phones and plug into employers). Let’s work on some innovations to facilitate this future together.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Please connect with me on LinkedIn here.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you and the wonderful questions.


The Future Is Now: Sheri Sullivan of Ernst & Young On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Marissa Walter of Break Up And Shine: 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After Divorce

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

You must choose being happy over being right. Getting divorced will throw up endless opportunities for conflict. Whether it’s finances, children or general communication, you could lose yourself in the need to be right and prove them wrong. When I decided that being happy was more important for my peace of mind, I learned to pick only the important battles with my ex-husband.

As part of our series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce Or Breakup” I had the pleasure of interviewing Marissa Walter.

Marissa Walter is a therapist specializing in empathic breakup and divorce coaching which shifts your mindset as well as your emotions. Since 2011 she has been advocating self-love and personal growth as tools to heal from heartbreak. She is the founder of Break Up and Shine, a published author and the creator of the 30-day online program Stop Focusing On Your Ex. You can follow her in her free Facebook group and on Instagram.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I grew up in London and was quite a sensitive and introverted child, unsure of where I fitted into life. I always felt my future would involve sharing empathy and support but didn’t have a clue what that would look like. I found myself interested in psychology at school and then, in university, I was particularly drawn to studying therapy. Back then, I didn’t have the confidence or self-belief to pursue it as a career. It was 20 years later, as my life took a dramatic change, that it became my calling.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

In 2010 my marriage ended in shock and devastation, when my husband left me to be with someone else. I was alone with three tiny children, and it was the lowest point of my life. I had to dig deep into my soul to turn things around. I began to share my healing journey through blogging and loved that my experience was inspiring others. This led me to eventually publish my book, Break Up and Shine, in 2017.

It dawned on me that what had been missing all those years ago at university, was the lived experience to deeply empathize as a therapist. I decided to train as a counselor to specifically focus on supporting challenging relationships and healing from breakup, and now I work with clients 1:1 as well as run a support group and an online course.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

I originally thought that my path lay in couples’ therapy. I believed that the divorce lessons which I learned could help me to support couples, so that they did not get to the point of breakup. After qualifying as a counselor, I took additional training in couple therapy and I worked mainly in this area.

But it came with challenges and limitations, and I began to realize that my greatest strength lay in helping individuals rebuild their lives post-breakup. I had to accept that my path wasn’t in preventing the breakups but helping people rebuild themselves after a relationship ends. So, I listened to my inner voice and stopped the couples work to focus on breakup healing.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Training in therapy is an uncomfortable growth process and brings up all your unhealed parts. Although it wasn’t funny at the time, I look back now and laugh at when I thought I was ready to train as a counselor but spent a whole weekend workshop sobbing through my own unprocessed grief over the divorce!

I decided it was way too soon to begin my career and left it another year. Once I’d let myself fully feel the emotions of the breakup, I could immerse myself in exploring and growing from it, while I learned to support others.

The biggest lesson I learned is that you can’t move forward while squashing down unexpressed emotion. The timescale will be different for everyone, it might be weeks, months or more. But if you don’t allow yourself to process the grief, you just delay your ability to grow and move on fully.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

One of my favourite inspirational quotes is: “Happiness is not having what you want but wanting what you have” by Rabbi Hyman Schachtel

I adopted a gratitude practice early on in my divorce healing journey and it changed my life. We don’t always get the circumstances we want in life, but I learned that it is possible to be grateful even for the setbacks, disruptions, and heartbreaks.

This quote was a tough lesson because it was saying that letting go meant not wishing for my situation to be different. But my life felt like a car crash and of course I wanted it to be different! However, little by little, daily acceptance crept in with a realization that somehow, for reasons I could not yet see, this divorce was happening for some higher good. I could choose to embrace it and want it. To this day, gratitude journaling is something I teach in my work because it is so powerful at shifting perspective.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

My current online program Stop Focusing On Your Ex is all about the mindset and strategies needed to make yourself a priority after your relationship ends. However, I’m now working on a new course which teaches you to take the next steps in creating your future. It’s called Dreaming Big After Breakup and will focus on conceiving a vision for your life and the goal-setting steps to get there!

Many people find it hard to visualize a better life after divorce. Even if they have hopes and wishes, it’s normal to lack confidence that they will ever become a reality. In this new project I will be helping people to uncover futures which are so intuitively driven that they feel compelled to happen! There will also be practical strategies to ensure that you take action and that it doesn’t just stay a dream.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell us a bit about your experience going through a divorce, or helping someone who was going through a divorce? What did you learn about yourself during and after the experience? Do you feel comfortable sharing a story?

My divorce was the catalyst to move into my most fulfilled life, and this is what I teach to others going through breakup. In my experience you have to allow yourself to feel the loss; if you bury emotion or try to move too quickly into positive mindset work, you are heading for a setback. However, there comes a point where you are tired of your own cycle of pain. At this point you make a choice: continue to stay stuck and see it as the end of your happiness or find the opportunity in the loss.

My divorce allowed me to reassess who I had been my whole life. Doing the internal work meant I not only healed the wounds of the marriage, but other previous pain and patterns too. I was determined that this devastation should not have been for nothing. As well as creating a happier, healthier me, it also ensured that I was entering any future relationships as my best and most authentic self.

In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?

I find that people are kept stuck by focusing too much on the things they cannot control and looking externally to get closure. This can include things like believing you need an apology or explanation from your ex to move on; becoming fixated on blame and being “right”; getting into rebound relationships to find happiness or filling your life with distractions to avoid the deeper healing work.

To prevent this and really move on in a healthy way, you need to stay focused on the things that are within your power. Even though you can’t control what has already happened, or may still be happening, you are in charge of your response to it. Focusing on self-awareness and personal growth is the key. Shifting how you respond to external circumstances becomes easier once you start to trust your deeper intuitive voice, instead of the anxious mind-chatter.

People generally label “divorce” as being “negative”. And yes, while there are downsides, there can also be a lot of positive that comes out of it as well. What would you say that they are? Can you share an example or share a story?

I believe the biggest positive to divorce is rediscovering who you are and what you are capable of. In most relationships we lose ourselves to a certain degree, more so in unhealthy or toxic ones. Divorce can be a chance to choose yourself, as well as relearn how healthy relationships look, and recognise that they start with genuine self-love.

There was point soon after the split when I realised that all my energy and time was focused on my ex-husband. I was spiraling about what he had done; the ways he was still behaving; how I could get him to understand my pain; the way his new relationship made me feel. On a particularly tough day, when I was drained and despairing from ruminating so much, I turned inwards and asked what was needed to get through this. I heard a voice which said very clearly “Save yourself!”.

I recognized that this voice was a deeper truth within me. The part that knew that my life was not over just because this marriage was. It was my job to save myself by rediscovering what my life was about, and making it count for something. Since then, I have experienced so many achievements, joys, lessons and relationships that I would never have discovered if I was still in that marriage.

Some people are scared to ‘get back out there’ and date again after being with their former spouse for many years and hearing dating horror stories. What would you say to motivate someone to get back out there and start a new beginning?

My first advice is to be sure that meeting new people is what you want, not what you think you should be doing! It’s actually preferable to hold back from dating while you heal and learn to fully love yourself again. If you feel scared, then check in with yourself whether there is still healing to go through.

However, if you’re at a point where you know you are procrastinating because of scare stories, I would say go with an open mind and curiosity, rather than attachment and expectation.

If you enter the dating world from a place of great self-worth, you’ll most likely be self-aware enough to spot the potential horrors and avoid them before they happen. When you have done the healing and growth work, and a date goes badly, you will be in a good enough emotional place not to make it mean anything negative about you. It may even become a funny story one day!

What is the one thing people going through a divorce should be open to changing?

People should always be open changing to how they choose to perceive what is happening. For me, the reframe from seeing a broken relationship as a devastating loss, to viewing it as an opportunity for a new life, was the ultimate turnaround.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. If you had a close friend come to you for advice after a divorce, what are 5 things you would advise in order to survive and thrive after the divorce? Can you please give a story or example for each?

Of course! I describe these as the “5 Inconvenient Truths” about moving on from divorce because they are often uncomfortable to get onboard with but will ultimately take you forward quickly and effectively.

  1. You must choose being happy over being right. Getting divorced will throw up endless opportunities for conflict. Whether it’s finances, children or general communication, you could lose yourself in the need to be right and prove them wrong. When I decided that being happy was more important for my peace of mind, I learned to pick only the important battles with my ex-husband.
  2. It’s your responsibility to heal even if the pain wasn’t your fault. You cannot expect the person who hurt you to make things OK. If I had waited for my ex-husband to apologize or make amends before I moved on, I would have remained stuck and in pain. Moving on is an inside job, and this feels so daunting or unfair in the beginning — especially if we didn’t cause the devastation. But when you do the work, you realize how strong you really are. This is empowering and unlike any emotional compensation you can receive from someone else.
  3. Your happiness was never dependent on someone else, and it won’t be in the future. We are led to believe that happiness comes from having a good relationship. I have learned that it’s the other way round. Good relationships come from people who are already taking responsibility for their own happiness. One of the greatest joys I get from client work is when people realize that they are completely enough on their own, and always have been. The marriage may have been an enormous part of your life, and it’s loss will leave a huge empty space, but it did not define your being and you are whole without a partner.
  4. You must learn to embrace change instead of fear it. Loss itself is not inherently bad or scary, it’s the way we view it that affects how we respond and cope. Reframing loss as opportunity is a powerful tool which, I admit, is not always easy. But when you step back from the narrow perspective of what is happening, you can see a bigger picture. It allows you to see hope that you cannot see from a fearful perspective.
  5. Time will only heal if you do something different within that time. I am an impatient person and when I used to hear the phrase “time heals a broken heart” it frustrated me so much because I just wanted to know “how long?”. The thought of waiting months or years to start moving on felt depressing.

Then I learned that true healing is not passively waiting for the pain to go. It means actively processing, learning and growing. If you really want to move on you must put the time to good use to create the future happiness. This means stopping certain behaviours, focusing on what is within your control and creating new healthy habits.

The stress of a divorce can take a toll on both one’s mental and emotional health. In your opinion or experience, what are a few things people going through a divorce can do to alleviate this pain and anguish?

Get the right support. If you are fortunate enough to have family and friends who want to help, use them. If you don’t, there are endless resources online and professional support in the real world.

I would also add that it’s important to find support that uplifts you and helps you see possibility, rather than emotional support that reinforces how hard this is and keeps you stuck as a victim. It’s absolutely vital that we get our feelings honoured, but the best support will show you that you are capable of coming back stronger from this.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?

“When Everything Changes, Change Everything” by Neale Donald Walsch. I mentioned before how about shifting the way you perceive change will be a huge turning point, and this was the book that showed me how! It is filled with deep truths about how we see life-changing events. I put the book down noticing something had permanently shifted in the way I felt and it’s one I recommend to people all the time.

Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could inspire one movement it would be teaching self-love. It really is the foundation for moving on from a painful relationship breakup. Divorce can tap into all our worst fears or core beliefs that we are flawed or unlovable. All emotional healing starts with truly believing you are worthy of happiness.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I love women who teach you how to use the end of your marriage to find your authentic truth. Elizabeth Gilbert and Glennon Doyle are two amazing examples of this, and I have loved reading their work. What I find interesting is that in both cases, these women were the ones who decided to leave the marriage, whereas I was the “abandoned party”. I would love to have a conversation about the differences and similarities that these endings bring up when it comes to moving on.

Thank you for these great insights and for the time you spent with this interview. We wish you only continued success!


Marissa Walter of Break Up And Shine: 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After Divorce was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Gr4vy: John Lunn’s Big Idea That May Change The World In The Next Few Years

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

You Don’t Have to be Good at Everything — This is one lesson I learned from a great career coach. She asked me to sketch out all the things I did every day and mark what I was good at and what I enjoyed. My work ethic has always been to roll up my sleeves and dive into whatever is needed. As I sketched up what I did, I soon realized I spent over 50% of my time doing stuff I was not good at and didn’t enjoy. Courageously, I had a discussion with my boss and pointed this out, and I think it opened his eyes up also to what he did daily. Now with my team, I make sure to ask them to do this exercise. It’s a great practice, and chances are you can optimize your team to do more of what they are good at and fill gaps with people who enjoy specific work areas.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing John Lunn.

John Lunn is an experienced technology and FinTech entrepreneur with 21 years of experience working and investing in financial services, commerce enablement, e-payments, data, security and infrastructure. He was the 36th employee globally and worked as the Director of Technology for six years at CyberSource, the world’s first payment service provider, which sold to Visa for $2Bn in 2010. John then helped found Passmark Security which was sold to RSA Security in 2006.

In 2006, John joined PayPal as the fourth employee in the UK (now 2,000+), where as Global Director of Developer and Startup Relations, he built and grew PayPal’s first Developer Relations team. In 2015, he orchestrated the purchase of Braintree by PayPal and joined the team. In 2016, John launched PayPal Ventures, the venture capital arm of PayPal, a $350m fund with backing from the Board. The fund quickly became one of the most active FinTech investors in Silicon Valley. John recently founded and is CEO of Gr4vy, the cloud payment orchestration platform, based in California.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My path certainly was not direct. I started as a Marine Biologist and graduated during the last recession, which meant there were not a lot of career opportunities available. I decided to be proactive, so I taught myself to code and fortuitously joined the first internet payment company called CyberSource back in 1997 as the 36th employee. I have been in the world of fintech ever since.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I have been in the fintech and payments space for a while now, so I have many stories having spoken at rock festival size conferences in Russia, Brazil and Asia with people like Bono, and Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden — weirdly in a suit. There was even one time that one of my network engineers tripped over a cable and took down most of the UK’s ecommerce.

Ultimately, however, one of the highlights of my career has been when I ran the World Cup of Hackathons in 13 countries, called BattleHack, culminating in a Silicon Valley Grand Final with dancing dragons and all kinds of pyrotechnics. Building a global community of fintech developers was incredible, and there are not many people who have danced in a 100 person developer conga on the edge of the Bosphorus in Istanbul having coded without sleep for 24 hours.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

I am a 6 ft 3 bearded, long-haired gentleman, which can be intimidating to some people, so the first thing I do is to smile. It really helps. It’s essential not to take yourself too seriously and to learn to laugh at yourself. I am very curious about everything and will have a go at pretty much anything, which means I fail at a lot of things. The ability to laugh, even when things go wrong, makes it so much more enjoyable.

The last thing that has guided me, and although it is widely used, I really believe in being kind. I recommend trying to see things from other people’s perspectives and trusting in people’s good intentions. We spend so much time getting angry with other people or fighting over opinions or ownership, but most people are good, and taking the time to work out how they operate is always worth it.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

At Gr4vy, we have built a Cloud Platform that allows a retailer to add and manage all the ways a consumer would like to pay without needing a team of engineers. A “payments team” is currently embedded in most retailers once they get to a certain size due to the complexities of managing multiple payment providers, especially when they sell internationally. Gr4vy allows a retailer to do one integration through our platform, and then a non-technical team member can manage all their payment methods in a no code fashion.

Gr4vy delivers other advantages by being a cloud platform, which also modernizes payments infrastructure. Gr4vy offers Instances, which act as a retailer’s individualized infrastructure and payment platform in the Cloud. Retailers can spin up one of these Instances as an Edge Instance of Gr4vy, in different jurisdictions worldwide, so they can serve their customers quicker and keep the data locally so they can meet increasing global data regulations. Finally, Gr4vy allows a retailer to avoid building PCI1 level security, as we manage that for them through our vault. This new way of managing payment infrastructure in the Cloud will accelerate payment innovation globally.

How do you think this will change the world?

Although there has been a lot of fintech innovation globally, there has been slow adoption of new ways to pay mainly due to the engineering debt caused by adding these options. Furthermore, not accepting the different types of payments available locally significantly reduces share of checkout for international retailers. Gr4vy’s vision is to help retailers test and adopt payment methods with no engineering debt, which will help boost their bottom line.

However, more interestingly, a huge amount of the global population is unbanked or underbanked and find themselves excluded from online shopping. Enabling other ways to pay will empower this group and provide a more inclusive ecommerce ecosystem.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

There is a certain irony about developers writing code that means that you don’t need code and, therefore, coding ourselves out of work. Ultimately if there are no more coders and something goes wrong, who can fix the code? However, this is unlikely to happen for a very long time, and there is nothing wrong with building great tools that make technology more accessible to more people.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

There was less of an individual tipping point, and more of a multi-year constant irritation of how trying to add varying payment options slowed the payment industry down. While I was at PayPal, I would meet merchants who would want to add PayPal but had 8 to 9 month lead times. I saw some great payment options fail because they couldn’t get merchant adoption, even though consumers loved them. I guess the tipping point was the emergence of Cloud technology and the realization that we could finally do something about the irritation in a way that would scale globally for retailers.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

Gr4vy and truly cloud-native payment orchestration platforms have just started as a technology, and a lot of what we do is educating retailers that there is a better way. The old way of large payment teams and onboarding each new payment option individually has been around for so long that we often see “Eureka” moments as we talk to potential clients. Phrases like “why has nobody done this before” are very common. Payment Orchestration is definitely the next wave of payment fintech, and it’s not a matter of “if” but more of how quickly retailers will adopt it.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. You Don’t Have to be Good at Everything

This is one lesson I learned from a great career coach. She asked me to sketch out all the things I did every day and mark what I was good at and what I enjoyed. My work ethic has always been to roll up my sleeves and dive into whatever is needed. As I sketched up what I did, I soon realized I spent over 50% of my time doing stuff I was not good at and didn’t enjoy. Courageously, I had a discussion with my boss and pointed this out, and I think it opened his eyes up also to what he did daily. Now with my team, I make sure to ask them to do this exercise. It’s a great practice, and chances are you can optimize your team to do more of what they are good at and fill gaps with people who enjoy specific work areas.

2. Delegation is Uncomfortable but Important

I learned this one too late in my career, and I see it way too often with managers. Sometimes you feel like it’s just easier to do the work than train someone else to do it, or you feel like nobody else can do it as well as you. The truth is you will never be a good manager if you do this, and you are unlikely to ever end up in a senior position at a company. You will lose the respect of the people you manage as they won’t feel valued, and you are more likely than not to be considered too valuable to be given management responsibilities. I got stuck in a rut in one of my roles because of precisely this issue. I applied for a more senior role, and I did not get it because I was too valuable in my current lower paid role. Recognizing the problem, I trained up some people in my team to do what I did — even though they were not as good at it to start with — and pretty much made myself redundant over time. I was then able to progress to a more prominent role with more responsibilities. Now, as a CEO, I delegate constantly.

3. Make Space for Others in Meetings

As a manager, I learned this the hard way when one of my brave employees pointed out that I was scary and intimidating — mainly due to my size — and that some staff members would not talk in meetings because they were intimidated. I was embarrassed and ashamed, and I learned to wait and count to 15 before giving my opinions in all multi-person meetings to create space for others to give theirs. I also actively ask people for their views regardless of their seniority, and I have been known to ask people not to talk during meetings so that others can. It’s a lesson I consciously practice, and I encourage others to do the same. Listen and let the group talk first. You are missing so much value if you only let the opinionated people talk in meetings, as they can often drown out others who might have a much more valid opinion if asked. It’s important to remember that quieter voices don’t mean the opinions are less strong. Even in 1:1’s learn that silences don’t need to be uncomfortable and give people the time they need.

4. Learn to Say No

I also learned this one far too late in my career. Every time someone asked me to do something, I would always be helpful, but it led to me massively overstretching myself and giving myself a stress-related illness where I lost all feeling in my skin for a few weeks. I am English and therefore adverse to seeming rude, but I learned that I needed to say no, politely, or I would break. The idea goes hand-in-hand with the issue of delegation, but learning to prioritize and say no to the less important things is the only way you can get better.

5. You Spend More Time at Work than You Do with Your Family so Do Something Worthwhile

This came up in one of my first job interviews where the CEO asked me why I came to work. I started down the whole career passion idea, and he stopped me and said, “no, you come to work because you enjoy it.” He then explained mathematically that I would spend more time with work colleagues than my wife and family at home, so I should make sure I am doing something worthwhile. Now, I look back on this as a pretty privileged thing to say, as not everyone has this choice, but every so often, I stop to think, “is this worth not being at home?” And, if the answer is no, then I look for something else to do.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets?”

There is always an answer. I get pretty irritated with can’t, don’t, won’t and other absolute language — it’s probably triggered by my punk rock youth. The way I see it is there is always an answer, and there is no reason to keep doing the same thing badly. I approach everything with an attitude that there is an answer, even if it just has not been found yet. The word shouldn’t is one of the exceptions here, and although there is a lot of talk of disruption in fintech, sometimes there is a reason for the status quo, which often involves regulation, so don’t disrupt things that might send you to jail.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

You know you have portfolio companies that you know could move faster, expand quicker, and become more valuable if they only could manage their payments better. Gr4vy can remove that friction whether they are a retailer, commerce platform or payments company. Now, if that’s just the companies in your portfolio, imagine what the opportunity is like globally.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I am mainly on Linked in linkedin.com/in/johnclunn

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Gr4vy: John Lunn’s Big Idea That May Change The World In The Next Few Years was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Rising Through Resilience: Akhila Satish of Meseekna On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More…

Rising Through Resilience: Akhila Satish of Meseekna On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Push your limits: Constantly consider taking a chance on things that you would normally say “no” to. That could be something small, like speaking up during an all hands meeting or taking a bigger risk and changing jobs, but either way you’ll teach yourself to lean into discomfort and thrive in the uncertain.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Akhila Satish.

Akhila Satish is the CEO of Meseekna where she leads a team of diverse backgrounds and skill sets on a mission to assess, train, and educate individuals on the power of their metacognition (their “how” of thinking). Akhila is an inaugural member of the Forbes Next 1000 entrepreneurial list, as well as the visionary behind the Fast Company “World Changing Idea” honor in 2021 for Meseekna’s ChoiceIQ app. Akhila’s expertise as a scientist and career expert has been featured in Forbes, Fortune, CNBC, NPR, and Business Insider, among others.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

At the age of eight I knew I wanted to be a scientist, which eventually led me to receive my Bachelor of Science in neuroscience with honors from the University of Michigan and my graduate degree in biotechnology from the University of Pennsylvania. At the same time, I loved the entrepreneurial experience and journey. At nineteen, I founded my first company, CyberDoctor, a healthcare communications company which was the first company to run a successful clinical trial on a digital therapeutic for diabetes. I went on to study business formally at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, and am now the CEO of Meseekna which helps teams at top organizations, like the Department of Defense and Credit Suisse, learn how to make better decisions with the help of 60+ years of research and 500+ peer-reviewed studies on metacognition (the “how” of thinking).

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

One of my first jobs out of college was working in a lab with zebrafish where I was tasked with crossing the male and female fish, and coming back for embryos the next day. Telling the fish apart by their sex isn’t as easy as one might expect, so I played the odds and set up eight tanks with the hopes that I’d be able to get some embryos. Proud of the creativity and resilience of that setup, I returned in the early morning eager to continue the project. However, once I arrived I realized I had been so distracted by the actual experiment that I had forgotten the code to get back into the lab. I stood outside trying every single code possible until finally one worked, and I was able to get inside the lab and see that my experiment was successful. When I reflect on it now, I realize that that experience was also a greater building block in understanding my own resilience, especially within the scientific field. It wouldn’t be the last time I had to be patient and creative within the scientific process, but it’s certainly one that sticks out in my memory!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Meseekna has a clear mission of “creating a better world through better decisions.” It inspires our team every day in our personal and professional lives. Diving so deeply into decision making on a daily basis creates an incredibly mindful and self-aware culture that I am incredibly proud of. That’s what leads us to create products like our Decision Making Performance Index — a thirty minute online simulation assessing decision making that we believe can transform hiring and recruiting processes to be more quantifiable and bias-free. It’s a bold and big idea that came directly from our mission and leads with our science first philosophy.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I couldn’t begin to count the people I am grateful for…from my family and friends, to my teachers and mentors. I am where I am and am who I am because of the people I have been lucky enough to have in my life. As an entrepreneur, you are often told to seek a river guide, someone who will help you navigate the highs and lows of the startup journey. For me, I was incredibly fortunate to be born with a river guide by my side — my uncle. He was an entrepreneur in the cyber security space and had seen it all. He was my biggest cheerleader and most candid confidant. I was devastated when he passed away earlier this year during the pandemic. Like many others who have lost loved ones this past year, I am grieving while deeply grateful for the love that I have been blessed with. I know my journey in entrepreneurship has, in many ways, reflected my uncle’s influence and guidance in my life — and will continue to do so.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

I think there’s a common misconception that resilience is a skill you only utilize when times are particularly tough, or when you’re dealing with a certain level of trauma. Resilience to me can be more permanent — it can be staying on top of your productivity when your days always follow the same schedule, or sticking with a long term project. Resilience is more about recognizing your greater journey and committing to pursuing your dreams through the tough and tedious moments. While resilience is useful in those moments of hardship, resilience is truly fostered and cultivated in your day-to-day.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

I love reading, and I frequently read biographies. I often find incredible stories of resilience within the biographies — and tips to achieve resilience! For example, Scott Kelly’s Endurance is about his year in space. He describes how a year can seem like an incredibly long time, and explains his hack for counting days up, rather than days down. By counting up days, he was able to maintain a sense of achievement and purpose. I think this is a perfect way to describe resilience — resilience means giving ourselves more knowledge every day and always working towards learning the next thing. I also recently completed The Happiest Man On Earth, by Eddie Jaku, about surviving Auschwitz. I highly recommend it — it is a beautiful, inspiring read on what really matters and of course, a story of unbelievable resilience and hope. He focuses a great deal on the cultivation and strength of friendship, which can be a powerful component of resilience.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

The truth is that I have always listened when someone told me something might be impossible for me. Because as painful and difficult as it may be to hear that, it is also incredibly valuable to understand why they may think it is impossible. After you know why they think it’s impossible, you can decide if you want to pursue it anyway, and how to proceed in a way that will reduce the probability of failure. You can’t mitigate the risk of failure unless you know where that failure may come from. The naysayers are often your biggest helpers! In terms of specific stories, I’ll say that my basketball coach told me that I might not want to consider an athletic career, and my science teacher told me I might not want to pursue a scientific career. I chose to listen to both, but in one case, I invested the hard work and extra effort to make my dreams a reality — in the other, thankfully, I took their advice!

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

In my view of resilience — we are perpetually in motion, pushing forward, stumbling back, and moving forward again. In the arc of our journeys, we can aim to push forward and stumble back in new ways, developing grit and acquiring knowledge along the way. Currently, I feel good about how Meseekna has grown through the pandemic, how my team has demonstrated resilience and growth, and where we are headed in 2021. So, it’s a good moment to acknowledge resilience — the activities and support systems we built that brought us this far.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

While a specific experience doesn’t come to mind, I do credit my parents with modeling resilience to me all throughout my childhood. One of the best ways to learn resilience is through seeing others display those qualities, and I appreciate my parents’ ability to reframe difficult moments as part of a greater journey in my own personal growth. For them, they did an incredible job at acknowledging setbacks not as failures or moments to give up, but rather as an opportunity to learn in the future. They taught me to not think so linearly, and that’s been an integral part in fostering my own personal resilience as an adult.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient?

  1. Push your limits: Constantly consider taking a chance on things that you would normally say “no” to. That could be something small, like speaking up during an all hands meeting or taking a bigger risk and changing jobs, but either way you’ll teach yourself to lean into discomfort and thrive in the uncertain.
  2. Surround yourself with inspiration: Surround yourself with things that give you hope, strength, and positivity so they can serve as a supportive reminder when times get a little tough. Whether that’s a physical person who serves as a cheerleader for your accomplishments, a monthly conversation with a mentor, or even a framed photo on your desk of a loved one, surround yourself with daily reminders of what motivates you.
  3. Use humor to your advantage: It’s important to learn how to reframe difficult situations with the help of humor. Humor helps you avoid dwelling on something negative and teaches you to learn that there’s always a silver lining to every challenge you face. It may be as simple as learning to laugh at yourself after making a silly mistake at work, but it will help you hone in on building blocks to resilience in the long run nonetheless.
  4. Embrace all your successes: Reward yourself for successes, big or small. If you checked off a handful of tasks from your to-do list try rewarding yourself with a coffee break or a moment to close your laptop and refresh. Embracing all your wins means that you don’t fixate on one big goal, but rather on the small steps to get you there. Remember, resilience can and should be an every day practice.
  5. Accept change: It sounds simple, but practice leaning into and embracing change. If you can’t get past changes, then you’re going to ruminate on what was, which will hinder your resilience long term. Being resilient means understanding that changes don’t define your success, and that the way you navigate changes is the biggest indicator of your future success. Getting a new assignment or moving on from a position might be tough at first, but it’s all part of your greater growth.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to make metacognitive practices more common in our conversations about resilience and managing uncertainty in our lives, especially within the context of the pandemic and this past year and a half. I would guess that every single person in the world experienced pandemic related stress at one point or another, and being able to process those emotions more constructively through metacognition is an incredible way to build your own personal resilience even amidst difficult times. Plus, understanding the root cause of your stress through metacognition can help you establish mechanisms to better manage those feelings. Metacognition is an effective, yet undervalued, tool to handle the way your brain makes decisions, and I’d love to make it more common in people’s day-to-day resilience efforts.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

We all have that list of people we would love to connect with. I personally love starting conversations with other people who have thought deeply about metacognition and decision making. In particular, right now, I am excited about speaking to luminaries and thought leaders in the human resources and people management areas. I also enjoy speaking with young girls beginning careers in the sciences, or entrepreneurs building science first companies as I am a passionate advocate for scientific literacy. You can reach out through social media- I frequently check my Twitter and LinkedIn messages.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@AkhilaSatish on Twitter and Medium

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Rising Through Resilience: Akhila Satish of Meseekna On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Mike Lipps of Intelerad Medical Systems On How Their Technological Innovation…

The Future Is Now: Mike Lipps of Intelerad Medical Systems On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

The value — and broader impact — of enterprise imaging technology can be broken down into three different constituents: hospital admins, clinicians, and patients — with the end goal of achieving the triple aim of healthcare: elevating the patient experience, decreasing the cost of healthcare, and improving the overall health of a population.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Lipps, CEO, Intelerad Medical Systems, a global leader in medical image management solutions.

Mike Lipps is Chief Executive Officer of Intelerad Medical Systems. With over 20 years of software industry and leadership experience at companies such as Intuit, LexisNexis and insightsoftware, he has a proven track record of driving transformative growth for customers by applying technology to solve complex challenges. Mike’s expertise in technology combined with his deep understanding of the healthcare industry and passion to help others has led Intelerad to significantly expand its presence globally and deliver innovative solutions that enable healthcare providers to improve efficiency and patient outcomes.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always had a passion for technology and using it to solve large, complex problems in our world. My career started in functional roles like marketing and product management and then pivoted into more operationally focused roles, which ultimately led to my CEO tenure today. After holding various leadership positions at several large software and technology companies, I found myself with the opportunity to lead Intelerad, a global leader in medical image management software. My passion for healthcare stems from my family. I, along with my two siblings, were raised by a single mom who did everything for her children but often put her needs on the back burner. When she was diagnosed with cancer in her early 50’s, it was already too late — she had reached stage 4 and didn’t live beyond her 60th birthday. It was too late for me to become a doctor at that stage of my career, but it’s the type of painful life experience many of us have had that illustrates the critical importance of quality healthcare. It certainly motivated me to want to lead Intelerad and see how I could use my expertise to contribute to this important field.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Throughout my career I’ve been fortunate to have met many valuable mentors along the way — and I’m very grateful for that. However, one day in particular changed everything in terms of my career direction. I was in a marketing role at Intuit, and I received a phone call to meet with the CEO. I admittedly was a bit nervous. He told me that he saw a leadership path for me at the company, however, in order to be a future leader, he believed I needed to have a stronger operational background. So, he pulled me out of my marketing leadership role and threw me into a Six Sigma process excellence role, working on projects across the company. I walked into that meeting as a manager of a big team, and walked out as an individual contributor in a role that I knew nothing about. It turned out to be the most impactful 18 months of my career. My mentors during this time helped me to not just be successful in my role, but to also understand how great businesses operate. From learning customer needs, driving operational rigor and cultivating an engaging employee experience, I developed a passion for how to decompose a business into actionable pieces and improve them systematically over time. This role is what fed my desire to be a CEO.

Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you/your company are working on?

In the context of healthcare, technology is nowhere near being evenly distributed amongst populations, and this gap is where my passion for solving disparities of imaging modalities began. Access to care, especially in rural or underserved areas, is imbalanced, and this is one problem Intelerad solves. We enable records, images, etc., to be read by any specialist, no matter their location, and we’re focused on delivering a best-in-class, cloud-based enterprise imaging solution that elevates the patient experience, decreases the cost of healthcare, and improves the overall health of populations. Our goal is to provide an enterprise imaging hub that supports our clients’ overall growth, and that helps hospitals and health systems truly achieve efficiency and interoperability.

How do you think the tech/product will help people/an industry at large?

Hospitals and health systems have faced immense, unexpected challenges during COVID-19. From spiking patient demand, increasing costs and lost revenue, to overworked staff and the need to quickly add virtual care services, providers are facing record levels of exhaustion and burnout. At the same time, they have been navigating the move to value-based care, which is a cataclysmic shift in the way hospitals historically operate. At Intelerad, we (and our customers) know that an enterprise imaging platform can ease the pain points associated with the value-based care movement as well as COVID-era challenges.

The value — and broader impact — of enterprise imaging technology can be broken down into three different constituents: hospital admins, clinicians, and patients — with the end goal of achieving the triple aim of healthcare: elevating the patient experience, decreasing the cost of healthcare, and improving the overall health of a population.

  1. Hospital Admins — Hospitals need solutions that automate mundane, time-consuming tasks and provide greater insights about patient information. A cloud-based enterprise imaging platform can help them maintain a high quality of patient care and avoid the challenges and expense of recurring investments in technology and IT staffing, while also providing up-to-date technology and security controls to maintain productivity and business continuity.
  2. Clinicians — By reducing technological burdens, providers can focus on treating patients and improving care, a key tenet to value-based care. Hospitals are looking to broader platforms that consolidate multiple systems into one interoperable environment, further optimizing workflows and ultimately improving patient care.
  3. Patients — Via a central, cloud-based solution, patients can have their images examined and interpreted by leading experts anywhere in the world as fast as it may have taken a local doctor just a few years ago. These capabilities play a key role in value-based care going forward, giving patients in rural or underserved areas better access to high-quality healthcare diagnostics and treatments.

Thank you for your time, and your excellent insights! We wish you continued success.


The Future Is Now: Mike Lipps of Intelerad Medical Systems On How Their Technological Innovation… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Maxime Kot of The Cannabis Business Advisors: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Dynamic Company Culture — Having different perspectives helps shape a more interesting and multi-faceted corporate culture that you wouldn’t have with a homogenized workforce. This helps to attract top talent with diverse viewpoints and backgrounds.

As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Maxime Kot.

Maxime Kot is president and part owner of national consulting firm The Cannabis Business Advisors. A cannabis licensing and compliance expert with six years of direct industry experience, Kot has built a proven track record securing multiple cannabis licenses across 17 state markets. Kot’s strategic approach and in-depth knowledge on government policy and rulemaking has led her to excel in the highly regulated market. As president, Kot oversees client relations at The Cannabis Business Advisors and serves as company lead on projects involving application and licensing preparation, operational analysis, policy and procedures, and business development planning.

With a keen understanding of cannabis market trends, Kot evaluates new opportunities and builds complex business cases encompassing opportunity sizing, competitive strategy, functional requirements, and execution timelines for license applications. In addition to her professional expertise, Kot is a valued industry spokesperson who has presented at high-profile business and investor focused conferences, including MJBizConINT’L, MJBizCon Las Vegas, Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference, and the Marijuana Industry Trade Association’s 16-week Social Equity Mentorship Program. Kot holds a Bachelor of Science focused in Marketing from Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into the main part of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share a bit of your “backstory” with us?

I started out as a Marketing Coordinator for a cannabis consulting firm. It was a natural progression after graduating with a marketing degree, but I very quickly found out I didn’t like it. Luckily, my supervisor realized I was very good at retaining information and had a thirst for knowledge. Starting from the ground up, she helped me grow into a consulting role for the cannabis space. My primary responsibility was learning state laws and compliance and then taking that knowledge and transcribing it in an easy digestible way for those new to the cannabis industry.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

During Pennsylvania’s dispensary applications in 2017, my business partner and I drove across the state for client meetings. One day, there was a snowstorm that caused major delays so we couldn’t stop by the hotel to get ready for our next meeting and had to improvise. I brushed her hair, sprayed on her perfume, got her lipstick and a change of clothes ready, all while she continued driving to get to our next meeting on time! Biggest takeaway: everyone thinks being in the cannabis industry and traveling for client meetings is glamorous, but more often than not, it isn’t. This industry has grueling hours and you still have to put a smile on even when you’re exhausted and running on no sleep or food. With that said, having a “ride or die,” colleagues who support you and always do what it takes to get the job done is so essential to thriving and enjoying what you do.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you tell us a story about how that was relevant in your own life?

“The best portion of a good person’s life, their little nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.” — Buddha

I don’t need to be in the limelight or receive praise for something I’ve done. I just want to know I’ve helped someone. A lot of what I do for a living is helping groups secure cannabis licenses and live out their dreams in this industry. Oftentimes, we are behind the scenes which I don’t mind. It gives me satisfaction to help my clients, especially when they are able to help others get access to medical cannabis, that’s what fulfills me.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

My mom taught me perseverance, which is necessary in this industry, she taught me, “When there is a will there is a way.” Sara Gullickson, founder of The Cannabis Business Advisors, who I have worked alongside for years, has taught me a lot about being a businesswoman, beyond the cannabis space. I witnessed her successes and downfalls and have learned a great deal from her. I wouldn’t have gotten where I am today, if it wasn’t for both of these leading ladies in my life.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

There are a few things, one of the more important aspects is we started in the industry during its infancy stage. At the time, only a handful of states entertained the cannabis industry and much of our knowledge today is based on those formative years which included lots of trial and error, as well as successes of our own. Our women-led firm is rooted in hands-on experience in the cannabis space, knowledge you can’t learn from reading books and attending seminars. It makes us unique in comparison to many competitors, because we grew up with the industry. I believe there really is no better way to learn than living it yourself. Sara and I have also been successful colleagues for so many years, I feel like we balance each other out, to provide the yin and yang to this craft.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

We are in the process of creating a product for new cannabis entrepreneurs. This product will be especially helpful for social equity and other diverse groups that can’t necessarily risk 250k in capital. Additionally, for our core business, which is custom solutions for cannabis business consulting, we are targeting markets with diversity programs to help them gain access to the industry. As a boutique firm, there are only so many markets we work with at a given time, so we strategically select areas with cannabis diversity programs like New York and New Jersey to assist qualifying groups in securing licenses.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

We are selective with who we work with, when helping groups secure cannabis licenses. We want them to have the right intentions for the industry and have a plan to operate successfully. For us, we want to ensure that patients in medical programs or consumers in a recreational market are gaining access to cannabis the right way. Overall, our mission at The Cannabis Business Advisors is to help make cannabis a diverse, thriving, and legitimate industry with integrity. Our work has allowed groups with good intentions to open up cannabis businesses throughout the U.S. and help consumers in those markets have access to quality marijuana.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Dynamic Company Culture — Having different perspectives helps shape a more interesting and multi-faceted corporate culture that you wouldn’t have with a homogenized workforce. This helps to attract top talent with diverse viewpoints and backgrounds.
  2. Innovation and Creativity: Studies have shown that a diverse workforce leads to better decision making, problem solving and encourages creativity, whether it is an expansion of a new service or product.
  3. Consumer Understanding: For both B2B and B2C businesses, diversity helps companies better understand their customers, potential partners, and enter new markets.
  4. Lower Employee Turnover: Better employee retention is another benefit of having a diverse team. Companies that are more inclusive and cultivate environments where employees feel like they belong and are valued, experience improved hiring and lower turnover.
  5. Respected Reputation: Companies who are committed to building a diverse workforce are often viewed as being more socially responsible with a vested interest in something greater than profits alone. This helps foster a better reputation for the company and brand.

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive?

With the pandemic, we realized the importance of finding balance in our work and personal lives. I think now more than ever business leaders need to lean into flexibility with their employees. Whether it’s more time off, or less time in the office. In my leadership role, I try to always lead by example and provide my team with essential training to gain their trust and allow them to thrive.

What advice would you give to other business leaders about how to manage a large team?

As the executive/leader you need to be accessible to a certain extent with larger teams. Being understanding as well as being open to hearing feedback is how I’ve helped lead groups effectively. Not everybody thinks or reacts the same way, so having an open line of communication and establishing that up front will help streamline communication. This is especially important with diverse workforces. You need to be cognizant that team members might translate things differently because of their culture or upbringing. I am especially aware of this because I grew up in three different countries and speak four languages and have experienced misunderstandings firsthand — which ultimately helped my communication skills with a wider audience.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

Oprah Winfrey and Wang Laichun, who owns an electronic manufacturing company that supplies parts to Apple. I’m always interested to learn how women entrepreneurs persevered in their success, the challenges they faced and how they overcame them; and how they keep abreast within their respective industries.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/maximekot/

https://twitter.com/thecbadvisors

https://www.facebook.com/TheCBAdvisors/

https://www.instagram.com/thecbadvisors/

https://www.linkedin.com/company/thecbadvisors/

Thank you for your time, and your excellent insights! We wish you continued success.


Maxime Kot of The Cannabis Business Advisors: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Matthew Pierce of Versus Systems On How Their Technological Innovation Will…

The Future Is Now: Matthew Pierce of Versus Systems On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Whenever possible, work with a diverse group of curious, empathetic, and community-oriented people — and go out of your way to avoid working with people who aren’t.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Matthew Pierce.

Matthew Pierce is the founder and CEO of Versus Systems (Nasdaq: VS), creating solutions to make TV, streams, games, and live events more engaging with in-game achievements, rewards, and second screen content. Versus partners include dozens of major live events as well as over 150 professional teams across the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS, FIFA, NCAA, and others.

Prior to Versus, Pierce spent his career in media and technology. He helped to found multiple companies including Rosum Corporation (acquired by TruePosition), O-Labs, and RobotDinosaurGames. He’s authored multiple patents in the fields of interactive media, gaming, and location-based services. Pierce is an investor and advisor to early-stage technology companies and is a graduate of Stanford University where he was an All-American and NCAA Champion swimmer. He earned his MBA at UCLA Anderson where he is now a Lecturer.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve been very fortunate in my career. I get to work in a field that I enjoy with people that I like and respect. I get to think about all the different ways that technology can impact media and entertainment. I get to work on projects where contextual elements like time, location, content type, and an individual’s preferences can inform, change, and improve the content itself. I love working with curious, diverse groups of people on problems like “how can we make live events more fun? Or how can we make TV more interactive, personal, and rewarding?” I get to work with some of the world’s best software developers, video game producers, Emmy award winners, and human behavior experts. Also, the producers of the Olympics, people that run in-stadium fan experiences for Super Bowl champions and Stanley Cup winners, key people at Twitter, Amazon, and Cirque du Soleil, and on and on and on. I am ludicrously lucky.

The reality is that I can only work at Versus doing these things that I love because I have incredible support. (I think this is likely true for many people that get to do cool things.) My wife Maggie is the reason that I can take chances and start wild projects. She’s excellent at her job, a great mom, and she believes in me and what we’re doing at Versus. She’s also the best operations expert that I know — which really helps when you have “what do you think about this issue” conversations at home after work. Having a great support system — having people in your corner — is the best possible advantage when you’re working on anything, really, but it’s especially true when you’re trying to bring something new into the world.

Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Versus uses cutting-edge technology to make things more fun. We work with content creators, game developers, sports teams, and broadcasters to make their content more interactive, personal, and rewarding. The Versus platform integrates multiplayer games, AR, polling, trivia, and real-world prizing directly into TV, streams, games, apps, and live events. As a result, fans and audiences can win real-world rewards inside their favorite video games or while watching their favorite team, show, or streamer.

Our technology and patent portfolio are built around choice, interactivity, and earned-rewards. Audiences can opt-in to interactive content that works alongside Versus-enabled games, apps, shows, and live events. Players choose what they want to play for and what games they want to play; whether it’s a predictive game about who is going to have more rebounds or rushing yards, or a set of trivia questions about your favorite superheroes, or a live poll about who should win the reality show this week. Versus gives audiences new ways to connect with their favorite content and earn real rewards while they’re doing it.

We have some of the best fan-engagement experts in the world at Versus — people who have been such a huge part of the home-field advantage for their teams that they’ve earned championship rings when their teams win. They’ve produced everything from NFL games, NBA games, the Olympics, soccer games, cricket matches, concerts, rodeos, and hundreds of other events. Our technology takes that fan engagement expertise and makes it available for teams, broadcasters, and Twitch streamers.

People love being a part of the action. They love interacting with creators. They love games and especially love winning. Thinking about the user experience in this way — asking the question “how can we make this more fun” isn’t just good for the user, the audience, or the player — it’s also better for our brand and content partners. People play longer. They watch longer and more intently. They remember the rewards they earned. They have better affinity for those brands. Everyone benefits.

The reason Versus works is because the things that we’re building are true at a very fundamental level. Choice is better than force. Engagement and interactivity are better than one-way broadcasts. Context matters, and earning rewards is better than watching commercials. People love winning, and we make winning possible. We make your favorite things even more fun.

How do you think this might change the world?

Versus is a part of a larger movement in entertainment and media for more personal, interactive, responsive, customer-focused, and contextually relevant content. We can choose what we want to watch and play, what devices we want to watch it on, and how we want to interact. Versus takes it farther by bringing interactivity, contests, social elements, and rewards to entertainment that didn’t previously have it — and it does it in a way that is accessible to every kind of audience and every kind of content creator. We started by building tools and experiences for video games, as well as for NFL teams and giant stadiums full of raucous fans — and now we can bring that interactivity and fan engagement to TV shows, streams, apps, and video games.

Over 90% of people are also on a second screen when they’re watching TV. That’s already changed the entertainment world. Furthermore, only 3% of people regularly watch ads all the way through, which has changed the $600+ billion advertising industry. Technology exists to make all the content that we consume more engaging, contextually relevant, and fun than ever before. And if done well, it can be accomplished in a way that respects people’s privacy and their choices — and that could change the world for the better.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Unfortunately, I think all of us have already seen some of the “black mirror” impacts of personalization and targeting when we look at how some existing companies have addressed content curation and advertising. Who would have thought that algorithms designed to give you more of the news you respond to would help lead to unprecedented levels of misinformation and polarization? While millions of us gave companies access to private data about our history, purchases, and preferences to get better product recommendations, we also became the product for those companies who sold our personal information to all kinds of bidders.

Versus was created, in part, as a response to that audience-as-product “black mirror” issue. We don’t sell user data, and we don’t sell player data. Our business model isn’t based on people sharing things that make them angry or creating self-sustaining echo chambers. Instead, Versus enhances the content that you love. We lean heavily on player choice and opt-in-only models for our advertising and rewards elements. For example, when we need a player’s location information or age, both of which are frequently required for regulatory compliance in prizing, rewards, and sweepstakes, we ask the players directly. These consent steps can take longer, adding time to registration or prize confirmation, which can lower the overall participation rate, but we think the tradeoff is an important one. People who earn rewards in Versus-enabled content are more engaged. They’re more likely to remember a reward that they’ve won than they would a banner ad. They’re also much more likely to redeem a reward in-store or online than they would be if they were just given a coupon. Choice works. Earned-rewards work. Sometimes it takes more steps to do things the right way, but we are happy to take those steps.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Versus’ acquisition of Xcite Interactive in June of this year is set to bring interactivity, choice, and earned-rewards to millions of fans over the next 12 to 18 months. We’ve already signed dozens of college and professional teams who will be using our “XEO” platform for interactive fan experiences in their events and their team and league apps starting in mid-August. In addition, Versus is actively integrating our proprietary rewards platform into XEO, and we will be able to bring engagement and rewards to our partners with casual games, trivia, predictive gaming, augmented reality, and social elements. Over 95% of audiences say playing for real-world rewards makes games more fun. And as we add new functionality this fall to allow streamers and broadcasters to easily include XEO inside TV, OTT, and streams, we expect audiences to fall in love with how easy it is to play and earn rewards.

Beyond getting into live events, games, and first-screen broadcasts over the next 6 to 12 months, we’re also building out our prizing system and making it easier for brands, e-commerce shops, and agencies to create reward campaigns inside Versus-enabled content. For example, we’ve recently launched a beta Versus app on the Shopify app store. We’re encouraging Shopify shops to join the beta to help us make it easier to reach the engaged viewers of live events and streams. The idea is that any entrepreneur should be able to reach their ideal customers with rewards inside apps, games, and shows. We want to arm all kinds of entrepreneurs and e-commerce companies with the best ads on earth.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

John Green asked this question at a University valediction once, and I remind myself of it often. I think it’s a good exercise for anyone. Close your eyes and think about all the people that have brought you to this moment — any moment that matters — and be grateful for them. Think of the people who believed in you or drove you to swim practice or read to you or helped you in office hours or mentored you when you started your career, anyone who ever baked you some brownies or bought you a beer after a bad day — close your eyes and take a full minute to think about them. For most of us, there aren’t many celebrities, politicians, or billionaires that appear in that minute. I think that minute can help prioritize things. That minute reminds us where we should be spending our time — not just because we want to spend more minutes with the ones who appear when we close our eyes, provided those people are still around, but because we want to be the kind of person that other people see when they close their eyes.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.

I think any good top five list has more than five. There are a couple of key pieces that are critical and then a cloud of others that might sneak into that upper echelon depending on the day. So here are some of mine today:

Be kind.

Be informed about current events and vote in every election for which you are eligible.

Read new stories — especially stories where the hero doesn’t look like you. Ideally, recognize that there are real-life heroes that do not look like you, but start with the stories. Read NK Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, G. Willow Wilson, Jessica Townsend, Sophie Anderson, Kelly Thompson, Salvador Plascencia, Analee Newitz, Jose Saramago, and Cory Doctorow.

Strive to know any one thing as well as Aaron Franklin knows about the smoke generated by central Texas post oak.

Celebrate the dead who have loved you and whom you have loved regularly.

If you’re an entrepreneur, get as excited about making good things as Tobi Lutke (@tobi) does.

Whenever possible, work with a diverse group of curious, empathetic, and community-oriented people — and go out of your way to avoid working with people who aren’t.

Periodically think about whether you would walk away from Omelas.

And always be kind.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m not a huge social media participant, but I’m @matthewdpierce on Twitter if you’re looking.

A better move would be to follow @VersusSystems for all the latest updates.


The Future Is Now: Matthew Pierce of Versus Systems On How Their Technological Innovation Will… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Brand Makeovers: Gracie Thomas On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand…

Brand Makeovers: Gracie Thomas On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Build a PR Plan — We work with clients in 3 phases: Strategy, Image, and Experience. Part of the Image phase not only includes designing the actual visual identity, but building a marketing and PR plan that carries the brand strategy into the market. Public Relations is an often overlooked tactic for building brand equity, that can be very simple! Start with signing up for HARO alerts, reaching out to your favorite publications and podcasts, and collaborating with other brands with similar audiences.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Gracie Thomas. Gracie is the principal of Gracie Thomas Consulting, an Integrated Brand Experience Agency located in Houston, TX. She started her first company at age 17, sold the business at 19, and has been building brands for small businesses ever since. Gracie consults with female-owned businesses to help build cohesive brand experiences that not only make their brand the #1 choice, but keep their customers coming back. GT Consulting’s brands have been featured in Forbes, Vanity Fair, GQ, House Beautiful, Create & Cultivate, Paper City, and more. Outside of her Brand Consulting Agency, she also founded the Building Better Collective, an online business school for female wellness professionals.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Sure! My career path is a unique one. I started my first company at age 14, a jewelry line, and my second company at age 17, a clothing line. I ended up selling my second company during my freshman year studying business and marketing at The University of Texas at age 19. For both businesses, I designed the brand, website, packaging, and products with the Adobe Suite skills given to me by my uncle who was a graphic designer at the time. So clearly, from an early age I loved building brands. After selling my clothing line, I began receiving inquiries from other local businesses in my hometown of Fort Worth, TX about brand and web design and marketing support. Before I knew it, I had another business on my hands: a brand agency. I ran the agency all throughout college and into my corporate career as the director of marketing for a wealth management group in Denver, CO. It wasn’t until 2020 that I took the agency full time and truly started to market myself as an Integrated Brand Experience Agency. From there, I never looked back! I love everything about my job and am newly inspired daily by all of the amazing companies I have the pleasure of working with.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing or branding mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

This is an embarrassing one… The clothing line that I started was called The Fort Clothing, named after my hometown of Fort Worth. Because the shirts were Texas-oriented, I wanted the state of Texas in the logo. I had the “brilliant” idea of changing the “O” in “Fort” to the state of Texas, which my brain never realized made our name look like “The Fart”. Thankfully I had not started the trademarking process and had only printed about 50 shirts with “The Fart” on the pocket. I’m still thankful for the man who commented on our Instagram saying “This looks like The Fart”. I immediately added a circle around the state to correctly read “The Fort”. Lesson #1: Always ask for outsider opinions on logos prior to moving forward with the branding.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?

It depends on how you define success. For me, I’d say the biggest tipping point I’ve had in my business is when I stopped hyper-analyzing what everyone else was doing, and focused on how our agency could be the best version of itself. That meant cutting down the time I was scrolling through Instagram and adding in more time and space to be innovative and alone with my own thoughts. My team is fully remote, so that also meant scheduling more team meetings where we could collaborate and dream about where the business could go. I’m a strong believer that a strong company culture allows a business to take on the world. That’s something we now work with our clients on as an Integrative Brand Experience Agency — we work with our clients on the employee level, too.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I’m excited to say that our agency is growing faster than ever. We now offer every aspect of the brand experience- from naming and go-to-market strategy, to brand and web design, internal operations and employee training and experience. To us, building a brand can’t be done by just tackling one piece of the pie. To really make it in this digital world, you have to address every aspect of the business and customer experience.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Give yourself grace and allow yourself space to be creative. I think we live in a culture that glamorizes hustling, early wake up calls, and long nights. Through running a business with an autoimmune disease and Lyme disease, I’ve learned quickly that running a business doesn’t have to, and shouldn’t be that way. Part of my personal mission is proving that you can run a successful business in a balanced way. We are all going to go through seasons of burnout. As much as we try to avoid it, it happens in one shape or another. The key to thriving as a marketer is learning to avoid falling deeper into it and bouncing back. For me, that’s giving myself grace to spend some time away from my business to realign with my creativity and recharge. I also am a strong believer in listening to your body when it comes to your work schedule. I know my most creative and productive time is the morning, so I choose to work earlier in the morning and shut things down around 3:00 pm because my brain doesn’t get much done in the afternoon. That’s my time to recharge and do what I need to do to get up and do it all over again the next day.

Ok, let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

The lines between these two are often blurred, but I believe that brand marketing is claiming space for a company in the consumer’s mind. Branding involves establishing who the company is, what they do, why they do it, and how people should feel about it. The goal of brand marketing is to establish connection and loyalty between a brand and the consumer. Product marketing, or advertising, is more related to driving sales and continuing to push the message of the brand into the market through promoting the products and services that it offers.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

In my opinion, investing in marketing and advertising without heavily investing in the brand is like throwing darts at a target blindfolded. When working with clients, I describe the brand in two ways: it’s your compass and it’s your filter. The brand directs all marketing, advertising, product development and hiring efforts, and it should be used as a filter to eliminate marketing and advertising strategies that do not align with the brand. Because of this, if you do not properly invest enough resources and energy into your brand, your compass and filter could be unaligned and not direct your business in the way you want it to go. On the other hand, heavily investing in your brand on the front end, will save you energy, resources, and mistakes in marketing and advertising down the line.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

I feel like the word “rebranding” is scary to some businesses, and when they hear they need to do it, it’s like it’s the end of the world. Rebranding can be one of the best, proactive moves a business can make. Businesses change and shift over time, whether it’s the products and services that it offers or their target audience, or both. If your business starts to move in one direction, and your brand is positioned in another, all of your marketing and advertising efforts will fail. Here are the most common situations when I would advise a rebrand:

  1. The business offerings shift and the brand is no longer attracting the right audience.
  2. Management and internal culture changes cause the brand to feel unaligned.
  3. Consumer trends and new technology cause the brand to feel outdated
  4. The brand loses its “ownership” of a certain color or style and feels that it needs to refresh their identity in order to be competitive in the market

I tell my clients to revisit their brand and message at least semi-annually to ensure that their business and brand are still aligned. If they’re not, they call me and we either make a tweak or a full pivot. I actually just rebranded myself because I got married and my name changed. My business offerings and target audience was going through a big transition and pivot at the time and it made sense to change the name as part of the “new reveal”. Plus, as a branding expert- I think it’s fun!

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

When my team advises a rebrand, it is typically based on heavy research and strategy. However, with every business move, there can be downsides. I would not advise doing a “Brand Makeover” without the data and strategy to back it up and without a professional. Rebranding is a much harder task than creating a brand from scratch, and if not done correctly, there is a lot of brand equity that can be lost. It’s important to note that rebranding doesn’t always mean renaming. Renaming a business is a much bigger project to tackle and brings in many challenges with SEO, brand awareness, and name recognition.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share 5 strategies that a company can do to upgrade and re-energize their brand and image”? Please tell us a story or an example for each.

  1. Look Inward — Your brand starts with your employees. Try interviewing your employees on what the brand means to them. Is everyone on the same page? Is everyone passionate about the brand and brand message? If not, try holding a workshop internally to find alignment with the brand.
  2. Connect Emotionally — Does your brand have a unique voice? Do you understand your target market’s deepest desires? People these days are not interested in being sold to. The most successful brands connect emotionally with their audience and position themselves as the “helper” or the “solution” to those problems.
  3. Brand Every Corner — Every corner of your client experience should be aligned with your brand message, values, positioning, and visual identity. This starts with working with your team internally, and then moving outwards. A brand is much more than a logo, it’s an experience.
  4. Give Video a Shot — If you’re in the marketing world, you’ve heard this a million times: The future is video. This goes back to tip #2 — emotional connection is everything and one of the best ways to do this is through video! Whether it’s a full professional video on your website, or little iPhone clips on your social media pages, a little face-to-face action goes a long way.
  5. Build a PR Plan — We work with clients in 3 phases: Strategy, Image, and Experience. Part of the Image phase not only includes designing the actual visual identity, but building a marketing and PR plan that carries the brand strategy into the market. Public Relations is an often overlooked tactic for building brand equity, that can be very simple! Start with signing up for HARO alerts, reaching out to your favorite publications and podcasts, and collaborating with other brands with similar audiences.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job doing a “Brand Makeover”. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

One of my favorite rebrands was Airbnb back in 2014. The new message, UX, and logo is elevated, inviting, and much more modern than the previous brand. DesignStudio did a fabulous job with designing the “Bélo”, which flawlessly pulls together their pillars of people, place, love, and the “a” of Airbnb. I think the biggest thing that made Airbnb’s rebrand a success was that they clearly realigned with the core of their brand: who they are and why they exist. If the proper research is done, which DesignStudio carried out similar research that my agency does with our clients through 1:1 interviews and other primary and secondary research, the design of the actual visual identity can come quite naturally.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My personal brand motto is: Build a Business Around the Life that You Want to Live. I’m a strong believer that prioritizing self-care and avoiding burnout can lead to more business success, and that if we are all running our businesses in a way that aligns with our lifestyle, then we will be able to operate at our highest levels of innovation and creativity. Plus, we will be happier people along the way!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.” Success looks different for all of us. As a wife and owner of two businesses living with a chronic disease, success for me involves maintaining my health, prioritizing my ability to give to my husband and future family, and helping as many people accomplish their business dreams as possible. As much as I would love to build a highly successful agency, that is not my definition of success. I’m also a big proponent of marching to the beat of your own drum. Just because someone tells you to live your life or run your business one way, doesn’t mean it’s the only way. It’s your life and your business, so own it!

How can our readers follow you online?

Instagram

Website

LinkedIn

Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.


Brand Makeovers: Gracie Thomas On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Moshe Safran of RSIP Vision On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: Moshe Safran of RSIP Vision On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

As thought leaders, we provide information about the future of technology and the processes necessary to develop it. We get the word out by publishing articles about those technologies and future trend forecasts, by hosting webinars and by releasing newsletters. Contributing to our overall industry in an actionable way helps us become part of that community, which naturally helps us make an impact. Our end goal is to reach specific decision makers of the medical device companies that we partner with to put our tech into the hands of physicians and out onto the market.

As part of our series about cutting-edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Moshe Safran, U.S. CEO of RSIP Vision.

Moshe has been with RSIP Vision for more than 12 years and is now the CEO of their U.S. branch. From 2016–2019, he was the VP of Research and Development, developing new ways for the company to solve complex technological challenges through AI. He also oversees customer communication and project management, while providing expert guidance in algorithm development, planning and execution of new projects. As U.S. CEO, Moshe leads RSIP’s business development for the United States, which represents the company’s largest market.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I was in graduate school, I was researching neuroscience and came across the Computer Aided Surgery and Medical Image Processing Lab at Hebrew University. They were doing incredibly fascinating work there, using the type of mathematical tools I enjoyed developing and applying them to real-world medical imaging tasks to improve patient care. I fell in love with the fusion of technical/hard-science challenges and the opportunity to make a practical impact, and I never looked back. Later, I found a great group of people to work with in the medical industry through RSIP Vision, which combined interesting work with people who are super sharp and (just as importantly) fun to work with on a daily basis.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

After working with a cross-functional team on a long-term research and development project, I took part in some clinical trials. I remember the satisfying moment when I saw the astounded look on the face of an interventionist who was seeing the system in action for the first time. This kind of feedback from the real-life trenches of medicine takes a lot of time and effort to earn. There were a lot of difficulties along the way, which made it all the more gratifying.

Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think they will help people?

At RSIP Vision, our 2D-to-3D reconstruction technology trains AI to generate 3D models of patient anatomy from two-dimensional images. We’re at quite an advanced point in the first couple of applications, and we’re seeing how useful this technology will be across the board for a wide variety of anatomical areas, images and procedures. Our aim for this technology is to create precise, personalized interventions that can only be accomplished with 3D information, while making the information accessible to many patients. Oftentimes, only 2d imaging is available whether for reasons of cost, reimbursement or due to the desire to limit exposure to radiation — so RSIP Vision is working to help provide the most accurate treatment plans in these situations.

How do you think this might change the world?

We hope this will be proof of “AI for good” — in turn, getting better results with limited resources.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Yes. While this particular breakthrough was not my personal invention, it felt like a personal lesson because I was able to see the success of someone on my team firsthand. That tipping point came from our CTO, Ilya Kovler, and his AI A-team. At some point in their development of the technology, they realized that the ways everyone else was tackling this problem was overly complex, and that they could create a simpler, more elegant algorithm by building off pre-existing experience they had in related tasks. Sure enough, as is true in many cases, we are seeing that technological simplicity and elegance actually lead to more effective, practical results.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

We’re looking for additional strategic partners across the medical device and intervention industry to bring this technology to multiple devices and procedures. By doing so, those partners will be able to take it to the clinic and leverage their existing market access for specific applications.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

As thought leaders, we provide information about the future of technology and the processes necessary to develop it. We get the word out by publishing articles about those technologies and future trend forecasts, by hosting webinars and by releasing newsletters. Contributing to our overall industry in an actionable way helps us become part of that community, which naturally helps us make an impact. Our end goal is to reach specific decision makers of the medical device companies that we partner with to put our tech into the hands of physicians and out onto the market. We are the software/technology creators, and our partners are the MedTech companies that sell and market the devices that utilize our visual intelligence solutions. Our executive team also leverages LinkedIn to develop our professional networks and start conversations with others in the industry — which are fun, insightful and ultimately lead to mutually beneficial collaborations.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person whom you are grateful for/who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My wife. I don’t even know where to start since I’m so tremendously grateful for her — not only for being such a supportive partner, but also just for who she is as a person and for being there for me whenever I need someone.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

All of us at RSIP Vision try to apply our talents and energies to a good cause in our everyday efforts. For us, that looks like advancing medical care through technological innovation. That said, innovation is a very complex process, especially in MedTech, so we try not to lose sight of our collective goal — which is to bring some goodness (or, at least, to alleviate some degree of suffering) to the best of our abilities.

What are your “3 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  1. Relax! And delegate. Your team not only wants to help you be productive, but they also share the responsibility for getting things done. Recruit the right people, and you’ll be in good hands!
  2. You can actually get some pretty decent food at many airports these days (pre- and post-pandemic).
  3. Comfortable shoes > good looking shoes. We should continue to apply this learning even in the post-pandemic era when we are out and about.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’d like to help make medical treatment accessible to all, regardless of socioeconomic circumstance, while still keeping the technology ecosystem sustainable for innovation. We see so much innovation coming through the medical industry in America due to the sheer amount of resources we have here, but other countries have very different healthcare systems, where citizens are much less dependent on their financial situations and are provided free healthcare based on need. There are pros and cons to the various systems, of course, but I’d love to see us have the best of both worlds here. I believe that technology can play a part in a way that really improves accessibility and quality of care for everyone.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Maintain a collaborative mindset.” Business is about making deals, yes, and there is competition — but the way to truly get things done is to collaborate. In my opinion, this is the only effective way in the healthcare and MedTech spaces to get great things done.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

RSIP Vision is transforming into a leading incubator for developing novel medical AI technologies. We not only bring our combined expertise and experience to the table, we also bring specific technologies and innovations that we’ve developed in-house. Therefore, I’d recommend getting in early and helping fund these initiatives, which are already set up for success through our proven track record of clinical-grade artificial intelligence technology that helps physicians and patients in medical situations.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn for Moshe: https://www.linkedin.com/in/moshe-safran/

LinkedIn for RSIP Vision: https://www.linkedin.com/company/rsip-vision/mycompany/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCORfZXStnfcOaLupBwVziiw

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

You’re welcome.


The Future Is Now: Moshe Safran of RSIP Vision On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: David Su of Atmosic Technologies On How Their Technological Innovation Will…

The Future Is Now: David Su of Atmosic Technologies On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

First, it’s critical not to underestimate the effort of getting things done: building a team, developing products, engaging customers and ramping revenue. Everything always takes longer than you wish. Getting things just right takes patience, but it’s essential to the success of any business.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Su.

David brings to Atmosic over 30 years of engineering expertise with an extensive wireless background, as his past teams’ radio designs have brought billions of successful devices to market. He was on the early engineering team at Atheros, VP Analog/RF Engineering, and VP Engineering with Qualcomm following the 2011 acquisition of Atheros. David earned a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University and has been a Consulting Professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford. David is an IEEE Fellow.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Before Atmosic, I worked in a variety of engineering roles at Qualcomm and Atheros Communications. At those companies I was fortunate to work with many talented and capable people, several of whom would later become part of the Atmosic team. As IoT devices were becoming more and more popular, we saw an important opportunity to rethink how connected devices are powered, and imagine a battery-free IoT. Atmosic was founded with that idea, to develop solutions that can extend the battery life of IoT devices and, in some cases, replace batteries entirely. With billions of batteries being consumed every year, solutions that extend battery life can make a meaningful impact.

Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Atmosic has developed three foundational technologies that significantly lower energy consumption for connected devices: Lowest Power Radio, On-demand Wake-up, and Managed Energy Harvesting. With our Lowest Power Radio and On-demand Wake-Up technologies, Atmosic’s system-on-chips (SoCs) enable a 10X to 100X reduction in power consumption compared to competitor solutions. By reducing power utilization to such a low level, connected devices can take advantage of energy harvested from ambient sources — such as photovoltaic (light), RF power, kinetic and thermal energy — to power them. The combination of these three technologies, used in conjunction with Bluetooth 5 wireless connectivity, can enable batteries to last forever, or even replace the need for batteries in some cases.

How do you think this might change the world?

The growth of the IoT has created a skyrocketing demand for batteries. With the ubiquitous adoption of wireless connectivity, it’s difficult to require connected devices to be tethered to a power cord. As a result, billions of connected devices today are powered by disposable batteries. Every year, over three billion batteries are thrown away in the U.S. alone.

Atmosic’s technology can make a difference in reducing the industry’s reliance on batteries by lowering the energy consumption of wireless devices. Our technology is ideal for many applications, including consumer electronics, smart home devices, healthcare devices and even industrial, enterprise, smart city and automotive applications where battery life is important. By avoiding frequent battery replacement or charging, we can cut down the amount of times that connected devices are offline for maintenance.

Technology adoption is typically a journey. The widespread adoption of wireless connectivity has, in part, lead to the growth of battery-operated devices. Imagine the next stage of the technology adoption with ultra-low power wireless technology combined with energy harvesting that can avoid frequent battery changes. We can reduce the environmental impact of disposed batteries, the cost of ownership and the maintenance burden of connected devices.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

While connected devices make our lives better in so many ways, privacy is one area that consumers should continue to think carefully about. Like most technology innovations, as consumers we should educate ourselves about what types of data their devices are collecting, and learn how to adjust their privacy settings based on their specific preferences. Of course, the Bluetooth-SIG has been continuously enhancing Bluetooth technology to maintain privacy through robust security protocols.

Was there a “tipping point” that guided you to energy harvesting? Can you tell us that story?

The key tipping point for energy harvesting is the technical feasibility of energy harvesting. As devices become more power efficient — going from watts to microwatts in terms of power consumption — a small amount of harvested energy can significantly extend the battery life of devices and even allow for battery-free operation in certain cases. One application that has embraced energy harvesting because of its low power consumption is handheld calculators. Over the past 10 years or so, solar-powered calculators have dominated the market without requiring batteries at all. It’s really exciting! The feasibility of battery-free solar calculators is primarily due to the low power consumption that can be easily offset by a small photovoltaic cell. With Atmosic’s low power technology, it is now possible to power all sorts of connected devices — from beacons to sensors, smart watches and beyond — with energy harvesting since the power consumption of these devices is extremely low.

What do you need to lead energy harvesting to widespread adoption?

The key to widespread adoption of energy harvesting, or any technology innovation, is market acceptance — the openness of the market to embrace energy harvesting technology to reduce cost of ownership and reduce the negative environmental impact of disposed batteries. It is gratifying to see consumers’ increased awareness of the longer-term ownership costs associated with purchases. We are willing to pay more for LED light bulbs that consume less energy. Additionally, we are willing to choose devices with longer battery life to avoid the burden and hidden cost of battery replacement. It’s now time for all of us — consumers everywhere — to consider how a device is powered before purchasing it. Manufacturers are also increasingly interested in solutions that could help solve these problems.

Atmosic is working with many companies that are designing innovative connected devices that use energy harvesting to extend battery life. As awareness of these energy harvesting products grows, I believe consumer demand will grow in tandem.

What have you been doing to share this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing or teaching strategies?

Our team is focused on engaging with partners, customers and industry professionals that understand our value proposition. We also spend time with the media — which can help tell our story — and analysts who have a keen sense of the market and how energy harvesting can complement the growth of IoT. We are also active on social media, distributing content about Atmosic, the market and relevant use cases where energy harvesting has proven to be successful. Our key message is about generating overall awareness of energy harvesting, and its lifelong impact on the environment and the future of the IoT.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Absolutely. My experience at Atheros and Atmosic has really reinforced the belief about how important it is to have an incredible team by your side. At Atheros, I joined a five-person company that eventually grew to over 1500 people. As an early employee, I had a front-row seat witnessing how the company grew and prospered. This experience taught me the importance of the team to achieve success.

At Atmosic, we are focused on looking for team members with an insatiable curiosity to learn and solve problems, in addition to individuals that really had a team mindset. I am so grateful for the amazing Atmosic team who has worked so hard to turn a vision into reality. Of course, we are very thankful for the advisors and investors who have dedicated their efforts in helping Atmosic to reach its full potential, along with our customers and partners who share our vision for a battery-free IoT.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

At the core of our business, we are laser-focused on solving today’s battery challenge. Just think about your home and how many connected devices you have currently — it’s likely more than you can remember offhand. Perhaps it’s your battery-powered TV remote, or your connected doorbell or smart lock. I promise you, it’s a lot of devices. We are excited about how we can help the environment by reducing the dependence on batteries from the smart home to smart cities and beyond. We also want to help our industrial customers to be able to scale their IoT deployments without the challenge of maintaining fleets of battery-operated devices.

What are your “5 Several things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

First, it’s critical not to underestimate the effort of getting things done: building a team, developing products, engaging customers and ramping revenue. Everything always takes longer than you wish. Getting things just right takes patience, but it’s essential to the success of any business.

Second, while it is important to have expertise in focus areas, it’s important to expand your knowledge base to appreciate the different parts of a business. For engineers who want to become entrepreneurs, some understanding of sales and finance is critical.

Third, remember that no one person can be the expert in everything, so it’s important to always look for opportunities to collaborate and learn from your peers, advisors and team members. It is important to leverage the expertise of the team.

Fourth, ground what you are doing in reality but be willing to adapt. Striking the right balance between being adaptive and perseverant is not always easy. We are fortunate to have the help of great advisors and an experienced team.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I’d like to inspire individuals and companies to focus more on sustainability. In particular, one aspect of sustainability that isn’t talked about enough is the total cost of ownership. It’s important to not only consider the upfront cost of a decision or purchase, but also evaluate the future impact. One example I’ve seen is how companies that embraced IoT deployments early on didn’t think much about the future costs of replacing batteries in devices, along with the impact on future generations as landfills have filled up with batteries. LED lights are another great example; while the upfront price is higher, LEDs last longer and have very low power consumption resulting in better energy savings than traditional bulbs. If we can all think about sustainability in both the short-term and long-term, we can better protect the world for generations to come.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

It’s not so much a quote as an ethic we apply to our way of thinking. Don’t get stuck with “the way you’ve always done it.” Ask yourself: “what’s possible,” and then do what’s necessary to make the possibility a reality. To boil that down into a motto, I live by the idea that “Whatever is possible can be brought into reality.”

Some very well-known venture capitalists (VCs) read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?

Atmosic Technologies is a company with a bold vision. Our award-winning lowest-power Bluetooth and controlled energy harvesting technologies are revolutionizing the IoT industry and making it more sustainable — driving the battery-free IoT revolution. As a company, we are focus on addressing wireless connectivity for IoT applications with extended battery or be battery free. Atmosic’s low-power technology is being implemented in a wide variety of devices in consumer, commercial and industrial settings across the globe.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m always looking to connect with customers, partners, brands and individuals eager to join us on our quest for battery-free IoT. You can find me on LinkedIn, and I encourage everyone to follow Atmosic on Twitter @Atmosic or on Linkedin.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: David Su of Atmosic Technologies On How Their Technological Innovation Will… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Veena Ramaswamy of Beyoutifully Empower: Five Ways To Develop More ‘Grit’

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Always be curious and extremely eager in asking numerous questions about topics that pick your brain as this will foster new possibilities. Be creative in welcoming concepts as you explore your personality and introspect your thoughts and feelings. Delve deeper by researching various topics, people, and events that intrigue you and strive to leverage your wisdom by learning something new every day. Speculate through self-awareness what/who inspires you, what your ideal life looks like 10 years from now, what piques your interest, what life means to you, etc.

As a part of my series about “Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success” I had the pleasure of interviewing Veena Ramaswamy.

Veena is a Success & Mindset Coach and is the founder of Beyoutifully Empower, her coaching business where aims to inspire women to become the best possible version of themselves through personal and professional development. She’s passionate about data science and digital marketing and worked as a senior data analyst at a multinational company. Aside from work, she’s been focusing on leadership development and her mission is to pave the right path for the next generation of girls to break the glass ceiling and to create change in tech sector.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path

I’ve always been a very goal-oriented and ambitious woman ever since I was young. I’m an avid learner and always had the insatiable curiosity to unravel the many things that life has to offer. However, I always experienced self-doubt and imposter syndrome in various aspects of my life. I would always work so hard to realize that my effort never paid off no matter what I did which really reduced my confidence and self-esteem. I was also living a dual identity where it was an ongoing battle — being confined to Western norms, while simultaneously adopting ethnic traditions. I struggled to live up to the crazy expectations of being “Americanized” and to conform to societal standards of the ideal strong Desi woman. Amid all of this, I was constantly looked down upon for not being up to par with the competition. I was raised in an environment that embraced gender stereotypes and was taught that women should be submissive and gentle. Because of this, I always hesitated to voice my opinions and people would underestimate my potential. I realized that I was hiding parts of who I really was and started to self-reflect on what my true purpose was which led me to start my self-discovery journey.

I didn’t want everyone’s judgments and criticisms to get in the way of my dreams. I realized that I’m not going to settle for mediocrity and I have an abundance of potential, which will help me achieve greatness someday. I always had a can-do attitude and my motto was “I can. I will. I did.” I acknowledged my unique superpowers to secretly stunt on everyone who doubted me. As I was raging with fire inside of me to manifest my dreams, my motivation soared immensely. I was on a mission to slay those goals and become the woman I was destined to be. I found my true calling and I dedicated 6 years of hardcore focus and alignment to reflect on my purpose and aspirations in life. The self-discovery journey fueled my desire for personal growth, which allowed me to upgrade every part of my life. Despite several years of setbacks, I was determined to rise! I wanted to be more than just a pretty face. I wanted to show that ladies are capable of everything and I became a strong advocate of women empowerment. My mission in life is to first become the best version of myself and empower/inspire others to reach their full potential. I want to use my superpowers of determination, perseverance, and optimism to instill confidence and inspire women all over the world that they are beautiful they way they are and are capable of great things in life. My desire is to become a trailblazer for the next generation of girls.

Can you share your story about “Grit and Success”? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

As I was trying to raise my A-game in every aspect of my life: career, personal, relationships, financial, etc., I did face a lot of setbacks along the way and I kept coming back to imposter syndrome that was hindering me from achieving success. My career was full of ups and downs as I went through 3 career transitions. As I was fully focused on myself and my journey, my friendships started to fade and I was often misunderstood because I wasn’t following societal norms and I was a woman who would always challenge the status quo. I knew that I had to boost my confidence and self-esteem and started focusing a lot on self-love and self-care. I had to really come out of my comfort zone in a lot ways which was challenging but was able to accomplish several things due to my can-do attitude and optimistic approach to life. This was a very long journey that required sheer dedication, patience, and perseverance but it was all worth it as I had my breakthrough and things were falling into place.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

My undeniable faith in God really kept me going even if things were so hard and I was able to overcome any obstacles I faced along this journey till now. When things were going downhill, I felt like giving up. But the one thing that kept me going is God. I would always choose the wrong choices but over time, HE would always redirect me in the right direction. I would always pray to just give me courage and physical & mental strength and it worked wonders every time. HE provided me with the positive energy to endure my struggles and always helped me in the most unexpected ways. HE also opened doors and new opportunities started to line up when I least expected it. Also, the love and support from my family and friends gave me the drive and motivation to keep pursuing my dreams during the hardships. I would also get so much inspiration from influencers and motivational speakers such as Joel Osteen, Jay Shetty, Kobe Bryant, etc. by listening to their powerful stories and how they reached success.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

Even though it took 7–8 years, I never gave up due to my mental strength, grit, and resilience. I experienced a tremendous transformation as I was nearing my breakthrough. I became more aware of myself and knew what I wanted in my life. It completely changed my life as it opened up endless opportunities and invited good fortunes. I follow this principle throughout my life and the quote “Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself”. I’m an avid learner and a creative thinker and I’m always on the run to get out of my comfort zone and learn new things in life as much as I can. I always stayed true to myself and my beliefs and I’m glad that I evolved into a better woman all around. Over the years, I portrayed my skills and knowledge out there, and as a result, received recognition from several companies and platforms. I became successful in accomplishing my professional and personal goals. I’m honored to say that I’m now an award-winning tech leader, published poet, writer, and now an author, award-winning blogger and photographer, keynote speaker, content creator, life and career coach, and much more! I got the opportunity to be featured and interviewed for several magazines such as Thrive Global and award-winning podcasts. I also got accepted into the invite-only private group of the ForbesWomen Forum and am truly humbled to connect with the most influential female leaders, innovators, and trailblazers globally! I was also honored to connect with celebrities and motivational speakers who have been a true inspiration!

The quest for self-discovery and acceptance taught me how to love myself and appreciate my self-worth. It was a self-taught journey in which I figured everything out on my own. I didn’t have a mentor to guide me through each phase of the growth process. I gained an abundance of wisdom from the challenges I faced, which sparked curiosity to understand the true meaning of life. It required sheer dedication, competence, grit, and resilience, but it was worth it because my hard work paid off. By cultivating self-love, I also became proud of my upbringing as I embraced a culture that embodied an amalgamation of Desi traditions and Western modern perspectives. It shaped me into a driven, passionate, and dynamic woman. I’m grateful to become a woman who is assertive yet compassionate, strong yet vulnerable, and unapologetically ambitious.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)

1. Growth Mindset

Gradually alter your thoughts and adopt the growth mindset rather than a fixed mentality. Broaden your intellect in areas that stimulate your mind and contribute to your personal growth. Acknowledge your competence and versatility and strive to build resilience as you work towards achieving your aspirations. There are bound to be failures but motivate yourself to bounce back despite any setbacks you encounter. It’s better to exert effort, fail, and get back up than to never try at all. You can achieve anything that you put your mind to with hard work, persistence, and the right outlook!

I always use an optimistic approach to life and believe that you can learn and grow from any experiences that you faced in life. I committed to self-improvement for 6 years by daily learning new things and gaining knowledge. I put myself out there because I realized that growth and change happens outside of your comfort zone. I dedicated so much time and effort in developing skills and talents in every facet including career, mental, physical health, financial, and spiritual. I analyzed my mistakes and learned from them over time, as lessons are stepping stones to success. I was open-minded, expanded my knowledge as much as possible, and transformed any challenges into opportunities. I always had the mindset that setbacks are just lessons to make me stronger and rejection is redirection to something better that is in store for me.

2. Be hungry to succeed

Become extremely driven and hungry to succeed in every area of your life. Once you’ve understood your worth and expanded your wisdom, take advantage of your abilities and potential to turn your whole life around. Take control of your destiny by creating a life that you love and have always wanted. Have a burning desire to attract what you deserve and recreate the life that you’ve envisioned. I always woke up every morning and worked on activities that brought me excitement and exuberance. I was passionate about data science as well as giving back to the community by volunteering at non-profits. I was passionate about women leadership to show that women are capable even in tech which is a male-dominated industry. I wanted to trailblazer a path and represent the South Asian community by being successful in tech, arts, and in business. I wanted these things so badly and was determined to rise that no one could stop me from manifesting my dreams. I made it happen no matter what obstacles came my way and gained recognition for it.

Went through 3 career transitions from pre-med to economics to IT / had a very rough career path for 10 years -> Masters in IT at a reputable school, became an award-winning tech leader at a Silicon Valley startup, featured in several tech magazines

Was nervous and afraid of public speaking -> went out of my comfort zone and spoke about leadership at the General Assembly, keynote speaker for the largest global tech conference, and did a podcast episode

Didn’t know much about networking and had low confidence — Part of 7+ networking groups and made 100+ connections within 6 months, networked with top industry experts and senior executives from companies like Google, Microsoft, etc., gotten high praise from all of them

I was writing poems and essays in school -> Published my poems and articles in several platforms, won an award for my blog and gained 2.7K followers, became content creator, and now a published author

I used to take photographs for fun and as a hobby -> I won Top 10% Popular Photographer on a photography platform in 2016, 17, and 18 among millions of professional photographers

I was drawing sketches for fun -> Became a henna artist and got my artwork featured on social media and websites; opened by own Etsy shop

Once I had the determination, hunger, and grit to succeed, I became unstoppable and I turned my dreams into reality!

3. Live your life with purpose

Take the time to self-reflect on what your true purpose in life is. Ask yourself how you define success and how does that align with your core values. What is something that you want to be remembered for? Find something that your passionate about and something that makes you happy and fulfilled in life. Success can be interpreted in different ways but I would like you to wear your rose-tinted glasses and contemplate what it means to YOU. During my journey, I realized that success for me was when I woke up every day feeling content and fulfilled, and I was living a life with purpose and meaning. My mission or ulterior goal in life is to add value to people’s lives, lead by example, and inspire people through my work. I felt a ping of joy knowing that I made a positive impact in the world, shared valuable advice for people to be inspired by, and empowered people to dream big. My desire is for people to love and respect me for the person I am and the difference I made in people’s lives and not for the titles or wealth I received. Strive to make a positive impact as you work towards discovering your purpose and taking the steps to transform your dreams into reality. You know when you’re on the right path to greatness when you’re constantly learning, growing, and evolving.

4. Resilience is key

Sometimes, you are tested to see whether you will survive your times of downfalls. Those tests are for you to realize that no matter what obstacles come your way, you should be strong enough to face those challenges and achieve anything that you put your mind to. Sometimes, you would experience bouts of emotional anguish, pondering about whether you could handle this much despair. You should never give up despite any battles that you encounter because failures make you learn from your mistakes. It helps you rebuild yourself after recovering from emotional pain and setbacks to get back on your feet. Resilience is so powerful that it can immensely improve strength, competence, persistence, and focus. I was always under severe testing period and was filled with distress but I knew that they were just lessons to make me stronger and that good things were coming. I was really knocked down but I rebuilt myself during my personal growth journey and came back with a bang!

5. Embrace Curiosity

Curiosity is a driving force to achieving success as it allows you to develop alignment and growth, invites positive transformations, enhances intellectual knowledge, and helps you maintain a competitive edge over others.

Always be curious and extremely eager in asking numerous questions about topics that pick your brain as this will foster new possibilities. Be creative in welcoming concepts as you explore your personality and introspect your thoughts and feelings. Delve deeper by researching various topics, people, and events that intrigue you and strive to leverage your wisdom by learning something new every day. Speculate through self-awareness what/who inspires you, what your ideal life looks like 10 years from now, what piques your interest, what life means to you, etc.

I had an intellectual curiosity in attaining knowledge in concepts that I wasn’t comfortable with. I would be determined to search for answers to all of my questions and would keep digging in if I couldn’t find what I wanted. I took over 15 advanced courses in various subjects and aced all of them with a certificate of distinction. I signed up for every tech conference and webinar that I could find and gained insight from industry leaders and influencers. I attained so much knowledge in such a short period which allowed me to sort out the pros and cons of each topic while taking into consideration other factors such as employment, job prospects, future success, salary. etc. Due to my sheer conscientiousness, I could achieve a few of my career goals and pursue something that made me truly happy.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

I’m grateful for my parents who have been truly supportive of my dreams! I wouldn’t have come this far and become the person I am today without them. I’m extremely thankful for them for teaching me how to navigate through hardships and giving me everything I needed to live a happy and healthy life. They’ve tolerated and helped me during my downfalls, yet they also cheered me up during my moments of victory. They have also showered me with immeasurable amounts of love, support, and affection. Words cannot express how much my parents mean to me and how grateful I am to be their daughter.

I’m also grateful to have an amazing support system of inspiring and strong women at WomenTech Network and want to thank Anna Radulovski for always believing in me. She has helped me expand my network, portray my leadership skills and my passion for women empowerment. I made several friends at WTN and are such amazing souls who have always cheered me on and supported me in every endeavor. They are family to me and I couldn’t have become a tech leader without them and gotten this much recognition. I’m also thankful for all the friends I’ve made via networking and the mentors that have guided me to the right path to career success.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I will be publishing my debut book called Beyoutifully Empower in July 2021 where I shared my own self-discovery journey and success story on how I reached my full potential. My dream is to encourage women and men to love themselves, help them to explore their individuality, and inspire and empower them to become the best version of themselves. I always loved helping people since childhood and genuinely would like to motivate people to live their best life and to become successful! Hence, the title Beyoutifully Empower. As I use writing to express my thoughts, I crafted my message and tips into a book that people can be inspired by. I’ve talked about my own self-care, self-love, and self-improvement tips for people to follow for taking their life to the next level.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes! Aside from career, I’m a go-getter and just launched my side hustle/business — Founder of Beyoutifully Empower. I’m always striving to better myself each day and I focus a lot on self-improvement and using the growth mindset to live a purposeful life. My goal is to empower women to do the same through life coaching and guide them on how to overcome imposter syndrome, leverage confidence, and unlock their full potential. I love to see people grow and succeed. Services coming up:

-Life Coaching (Success and Mindset)

-Career Coaching (Career growth development)

-Leadership Development

-Mentorship Program

-Workshops in different categories such as tech, arts, business, graphic design, etc.

What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?

Strive to keep learning something new every day. Acknowledge your competence and versatility and build resilience as you work towards achieving your business aspirations. Assess what your core strengths are and take the time to develop several entrepreneurial skills to become successful. Try to let go of the fear and embrace the unknown as this will foster innovation.

I would also recommend that founders portray leadership skills and empower/encourage your employees to share their story and voice their opinions. Let their voice be heard and employees should add value by contributing their stories, insights, and experiences to help empower others who would like to make a difference. They should showcase their talents and knowledge by putting yourself themselves there and it’s important to give them reassurance if they need help with anything so that they can reach their full potential. Motivate them to stand out from the others because they all have worked really hard and they deserve to have their efforts be recognized and rewarded!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I mentioned a little about this in my project but I would like to inspire a personal development movement where all ambitious go-getters can all work together and help the next generation girls/boys turn their dreams into reality. I would like to give them the resources via workshops and webinars as well as emotional support that they don’t have to get their dreams accomplished as much as possible. I would like to start a huge community where these kids can feel extremely safe to be themselves and voice their story and make them into the next leaders and trailblazers. I would like to see a domino effect where each person inspires and motivates each other and many more kids become role models. I want to see a tremendous change and impact in this world where there are many more dreamers, doers, go-getters, and visionaries!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Ever since childhood, I always lived by this quote by Norman Vincent Peale — “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you will land among the stars”. This is relevant to my life because this quote always motivated me as a go-getter to always challenge myself. I let go of the fear & always dreamed and aimed big. I chased after my dreams and turned them into reality. Sometimes I would miss my goals and be in the stars but I would never give up, used failures as opportunities to grow, still kept going after it, and was able to reach that big dream of mine!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

My IG personal account is @veena4ever19

My IG business account is @beyoutifullyempower

Feel free to also follow me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/veenarama/

Would love to connect!

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Veena Ramaswamy of Beyoutifully Empower: Five Ways To Develop More ‘Grit’ was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Rising Through Resilience: Tijen Genco On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Creating a mantra that helps you with that. While deciding the treatment options I was feeling quite upset, keeping the news to myself, and not liking the Western medicine options that I found to be abrasive. There was an overwhelming amount of information to understand, to digest, and to decide all at the same time in order to progress toward a decided course of action. All of this was too much. I developed a mantra saying, “I have no problem right now. I feel well. Therefore, I can manage this.”

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Tijen Genco.

Tijen Genco, MS, MCC, NBC-HWC, E-RYT200 is the founder of Genco Coaching, providing Executive, Life and Well-being Coaching, Coach Education and Mentoring. Tijen overcame a variety of obstacles and grew through numerous tragedies in her life. She successfully turned them into inspirational techniques that support her clients and students in their growth. As an ICF Master Certified Coach and board-certified Health and Wellness Coach, Tijen has developed and combined many innovative evidence-based and esoteric coaching techniques to form the nucleus of the Genco Method, to enable her clients to transform challenging experiences into their superpowers!
Genco Coaching: https://gencocoaching.com/

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

I grew up in Turkey and started my career as an R&D engineer in Ankara, designing robots for the first five years of my career. I was always fascinated about the concept of performance and the lack thereof. I wanted to understand how people and things functioned when they were at their best. After my job as an R&D Engineer, I went into IT and systems integration, employed by the Turkish subsidiary of an American company. That company brought me into the US because of my advanced integration skills with complex systems. I furthered my career by achieving mastery of excellence in processes and services before I completed my master’s degree in organizational behavior and coaching.

I was a very protected child; yet, as a highly sensitive being, I often needed to find different ways to function than most other people around me. So, I started developing my skills on how to be a resilient human being at an early age, while developing an understanding of human potential and performance. Pursuing my BS in Electronics Engineering, I was one of three female students out of eighty-five students in my university class. Therefore, I had to learn how to function well in a male-dominant professional field and education. After my graduation, I moved to Ankara, the capital of Turkey, where I worked as an engineer at an R&D company. I was the only female R&D engineer among many males. I enhanced my skills on how to be resilient in the male-dominant workspace and social culture.

After developing skills on how to be a successful single professional female in the technical field in Ankara, I moved to the US by myself where I faced many challenges to overcome: simple things, such as having no credit history in this country, to even being able to obtain a credit card or rent a house; to losing my immigration status when the sponsoring company declared bankruptcy. I gave up a lot to get another sponsoring company quickly, washing away 10 years of my career. I started my career again as if I were a recent college graduate. Often life offered me challenges all at once: breaking off an engagement, losing my job and immigration status all at the same time, tragically losing a loved one, having another family member being diagnosed with a mental illness, and losing another job again back-to-back. I was also diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2019. All these challenges taught me that each time I am presented with a challenge I had two main options. I would either feel victimized by the experience or feel empowered by it. At times, I could not choose the second option right away, but I always found my way towards it. Now, as a coach, I teach my students how to coach others to find their inner strength, and I coach my clients about how they can turn events they feel victimized by into their superpower.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

Years ago, right after I received my PCC coaching credentials, I volunteered to offer my services to ICF during International Coaching Week. I was assigned a client to offer a session to. I had no idea that the assigned client was diagnosed with a terminal illness and wanted to discuss their anger and grief during our session. I was not prepared for such a deeply transformative session at all — up until that time, I had performed internal coaching duties inside a large corporation. In that moment, I faced choosing yet again to be resilient so that I could support the client to do the same. The session was life-altering for the client. I ended up offering additional pro-bono sessions to this client as they prepared themselves for their departure from this world, but not before seeing themselves as a powerful human being, able to complete everything they wished to complete before their life came to an end.

When we started coaching, the client was quite bitter about all that was happening for them. They had lost their job, and then were diagnosed with the illness. They were feeling quite angry that they could not counsel people anymore, they did not have a place to see their clients, had certain challenges with their family members, feeling powerless about what Western medicine offered to them, etc. By the time we concluded our sessions, the client had found themselves an office space that was free of charge at a neighboring church (although they did not belong to that religion), started seeing clients, resolved their challenges with family members, and walked towards the end of their journey with peace.

What I learned from this experience is that first, life does not offer us anything that we are not equipped to handle. Despite my fears, I was ready to handle such a complex case, and the client had it in them to respond to the complexities they were facing. I also learned from observing the client’s journey that once they had chosen to take their power back from the circumstances, they were able to create many options to enjoy their life and continue to blossom regardless of the illness. So, no matter what we are experiencing, we always have options to choose our responses in life. And that to me is the key to resilience.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

My company offers a variety of unique approaches to coaching under the umbrella of Genco Method. As a person who is trained at the mastery level for service and process excellence, I always strive for the best practices and do significant amounts of learning and research. I am trained in both the Eastern esoteric teachings as well as Western evidenced-based methodologies. Therefore, my company has a holistic approach to achieving human potential in an integrative way with excellence in offerings.

The coaching method of self-directed change always puts the client in the center. However, it does not always look at the client through the holistic lenses needed to honor the client’s complexity, make the invisible patterns visible, and facilitate change through every cell of their human system. Often, traditional therapy and coaching approaches and queries only engage the mind. Genco Method includes energetic systems, physical systems, subtle bodies, cultural and ancestral imprints, beliefs, and value structures in the inquiry, as these are relevant to create sustainable changes for the client.

One of my student-clients was pregnant. The client (and baby in the belly) participated in various training courses of mine and had private sessions with me during the pregnancy. Often, we worked on the inherited family patterns that were impacting the client (and the baby) during the pregnancy, as well as how the client envisioned themselves postpartum. Two days prior to the birth, the client reached out to schedule an emergency session with me. Client was feeling quite fearful about her ability to raise a young child at the same time as having a newborn, without falling into, and repeating the undesired behaviors of her mother. I facilitated the session collectively, including the baby’s responses to my inquiries inside the belly, as well as my client’s. Client’s fears were resolved, and she had a brand-new perspective about her abilities and resilience. The client obtained a compassionate view of what was happening to client’s mother when she was young. As a result, baby relaxed inside client’s body. Two days later, the baby slid through the birth canal with ease in fewer than thirty minutes to meet her mom with joy. Mom and baby are enjoying their postpartum time together now, along with the other young sibling.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Of course, I thank my parents first. My father was a pioneer who brought in many revolutionary ideas to the culture he lived in. My mother is always understanding, listening and supportive of me, no matter what I want to do. These two mentoring parents cultivated my ability to try new things, and when they do not work, to learn how to pick up the pieces and integrate as a growth. This supportive environment helped me to master resilience.

Also, I have a close friend who has been by my side for over twenty years. Years ago, she said to me you can always use me as a test person whatever you are learning and developing. So, no matter what kind of certification I wanted to get, I had a trusted and honest client to practice on. I would like to thank her.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Often, resilience is defined as one’s ability to bounce back from a challenging experience and keep moving forward. My definition differs from that. I see resilience as a gatekeeper, a bottleneck point in our spiritual advancement as a human being. In our journey of life, we are offered many opportunities or bottlenecks to decide whether we meet the challenge and respond to the gatekeeper properly. This will determine our ability to get to the next level in our being and self-expression. Some people decide to go backwards in their spiraling journey, some decide to stay where they are and act as if the spiral was a circle, and some keep going deeper in their spiral of spiritual existence and explore new depths of themselves. I say that each challenge is an invitation to change and deepening. How we respond to that invitation is our choice.

I repeatedly share with my coaching students that experiencing firsthand whatever they wish to support their client would be quite impactful for them becoming a masterful guide in the client’s journey. To me, there are various degrees of demonstrating resilience, requiring various skill sets.

At the basic level, let us call it level 1, one responds to the challenging event, somewhat recovers from it, while carrying forward some level of resentment about it for the rest of their life. I describe this level as moving backwards in the spiral of their spiritual development. Since the person was not able to face the challenge rather fell back.

At level 2, one responds to the challenging event, recovers from it, and moves forward with their life at the same level of the spiral as it was before (circling). This results in maintaining the status quo of the spiritual enhancement journey. At this level, person demonstrated physical and possibly emotional resilience without spiritual advancement as the learnings were not integrated properly rather taken as a physical and/or emotional challenge.

At level 3, one responds to the challenging event, recovers from it and advances from that bottleneck into their next level of growth by deepening their understanding of themselves and the events. At this level, spiritual integration and growth takes place.

At the level of mastery, one faces the challenge, and not only advances to the next level by recovering from it but understands the meaning of that challenge at a deeper level and becomes a beacon of life for the others who are going through similar challenges. They support the others’ ability to pass through bottlenecks into their next level of growth.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

When I think of resilience, I think about my great-grandmother. She was thrown out of her house with four children by her husband when he decided to replace her with the maid of the house, back in the early 1900s. She became a single mother, with no support from her husband. She lost one son during the war, and another son from food poisoning. She raised two beautiful daughters alone and managed to support my grandmother becoming one of the first female teachers of the Turkish republic. I never met my great-grandmother. I grew up listening to the stories of my grandmother’s challenging childhood. How hard it was for them to not be able to have food to eat, etc. As I look back, I now realize how strong and amazing my beautiful great-grandmother was. She managed to take care of her family with utmost integrity and strength as a single mother at that time of chaos. She sewed things for others with one sewing machine that she had. She faced many obstacles and grievances, but she was able to plant the seeds of a lineage of brilliant, strong, and resilient women.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

Yes, of course. Let me share that one that tells the story of me coming to the US. I am a child of two teacher parents from Turkey. As I grew up, I felt that I did not belong to that culture. I felt the need to move out of the country. People told me it is impossible to do that, you cannot get a visa, etc. I remember at some point getting ninety-nine business addresses from the embassies of Turkey and sending my resume to the European businesses as a young Electronics Engineer. I received ninety-nine decline letters…I did not give up on my urge, as this was beyond a dream for me. After a while, I ended up being employed by the Turkish subsidiary of an American company. With that company I moved to the US via a job transfer. A short while later, that company declared bankruptcy. As a result, I lost my sponsor for my work visa and faced an abrupt requirement to return to Turkey. I had to either find another sponsoring company for another job or leave the country within the three weeks. I faced challenging decisions and ended up starting my career from scratch within the US to be able to find the sponsor that I needed in that short timeframe.

Although that experience was a significant amount of trauma, I decided to take my spiral to the next layer in its depth and continue to explore further into its new layers. I am now standing here strong, sharing my ideas of resilience with many and being an inspiration for them.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

In 2019, after many trials of challenges, tragedies, and setbacks in my life, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Once again, I decided to respond to this challenge as an invitation to change also like I explained earlier. This diagnosis helped me to reflect, recognize, and become more aware of additional things in my life. It supported me to be much kinder towards myself and deepened my level of compassion for the people moving through the cancer diagnosis to an unimaginable level before my own diagnosis.

I am now extending my discoveries and learnings to the Genco Method Somatic Coach Training, so that my knowledge can support many other coaches and their clients moving through challenging events and difficulties in their lives.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

I grew up with an elder sister who, like many other elder siblings, introduced me to many facets of fear, both those perceived to be external, or perceived to be my shortcomings. That, to me, was good preparation for facing the fears of life, no matter what direction they are coming from.

During the first year of primary school, I got the mumps. My grandmother made a mistake and gave me one of her sleeping pills instead of the prescribed medicine. I woke up sick and could not even keep my head straight. However, I still pressured my mother, who was a primary school teacher, to teach me how to read, as I did not want to fall behind my class. I thought that I needed to be ahead of everyone, having to go to the school where my mother was teaching, and being a member of large and well-known family in the city that we were living.

Despite the illness and the sleeping pills, I managed to learn how to read and returned to the school as the first one to read in my class. Later, I took a role of assisting my teacher, teaching other students, who had high levels of anxiety and learning challenges, how to read.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

5 Steps to Becoming Masterful in Resilience with Tijen Genco

The first step is detachment. See yourself, your core being separate from what is happening. As mentioned earlier, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in late November of 2019, right around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in the US. I felt that I needed to keep the news to myself to avoid impacting the people around me. So, I kept saying to myself that this is just another experience, a diagnosis, it does not define me or consume me. I am separate from the experience. For this time there is just a relationship between the two of us and that can change any time.

The second step is focusing on the now. Creating a mantra that helps you with that. While deciding the treatment options I was feeling quite upset, keeping the news to myself, and not liking the Western medicine options that I found to be abrasive. There was an overwhelming amount of information to understand, to digest, and to decide all at the same time in order to progress toward a decided course of action. All of this was too much. I developed a mantra saying, “I have no problem right now. I feel well. Therefore, I can manage this.”

The third step is finding something that you can manage and fit into your value structure that is related to the challenging experience you are having. I was incredibly lucky to be surrounded by the oncologists who understood me and my values as a person. I had a dialogue with them about my values and collaborated with them, instead of surrendering blindly to their recommended course of treatment. I decided to be a well-informed, educated, and well-communicating patient that wants to collaborate with the doctors. Therefore, they were able to coach me toward decisions that were more acceptable to me and my value structure.

The fourth step is integrating life’s offerings. After the course of treatment, my body was different, and it had new challenges. I did not like going through anesthesia and some other aspects of the treatments. Therefore, I created nurturing, healthy drinks such as red beet, aloe vera and coconut water, to consume after the surgery to flush out the anesthesia, etc. I subscribed to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), and got fresh organic vegetables delivered to me so I could take new life inside of me to create healthier cells as I went through radiation therapy. I created new exercise regimes to regain my mobility. Therefore, I was taking in and metabolizing this change.

The fifth and last step gets you into mastery. In this step, you decide to become an inspiration to others, telling your story in such a way that others understand the challenges but also find inspiration in it. I developed Genco Method Somatic Coach Training and NLP and Polyvagal Applications to Coaching Training to help others. I also participated in fundraising efforts of non-profit organizations that help cancer patients such as Unite for Her. I donated my audio meditation CD Chakra Symphony of the Heart and Peacefulness with Tijen Genco recordings to integrative hospitals as a supportive tool to share with their patients while they are moving through the diagnosis, and treatment.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

One of my main teachings is to help people detach themselves from the inherited thought patterns that are limiting their potential. I am already planting the seeds with my students and clients toward a social cognitive revolution one mind at a time. I would like to expand this effort so that we can expunge harmful thought patterns consciously, by being aware of them and choosing something else that is all inclusive, supportive, and loving. Our language plays a great role in this. English language is often quite self-defeating and pressuring, such as “killing it, go big or go home, crush it, nail it, war against ___, pressure is on”. As we choose peaceful, all inclusive, all-loving language, we move towards a more loving, caring, compassionate, and peaceful planet for all of us. So, my invitation is to be resilient toward beliefs that are unkind, uncaring, or separative, and to choose what is life affirming — saying, “Pause, Poise, and Choose with Care” (PPCC). Let’s call that the PPCC movement by Tijen Genco!

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Yes, I have three. One is Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, because she has funds as well as organizations to facilitate global structural change for PPCC.

The second one is Oprah Winfrey, Philanthropist and TV Host, because through her audience she can create curiosity about and awareness of the need for social change.

The third one is Tami Simon, Founder and Publisher of Sounds True, because she has the audience to help create further awareness and training materials at large.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

The best way is via my website: https://gencocoaching.com. They can like my Genco Coaching page on Facebook, find me on Instagram as @tijengenco, twitter as @gencocoaching, and on LinkedIn as Tijen Genco.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Rising Through Resilience: Tijen Genco On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Venture Studios: Aayush Gupta’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Simplify as much as possible — I’ve always appreciated how a three line haiku can be dissected into multiple pages of analytical commentary. But while deep exploration is both fun and necessary to unlock new insight, I’ve realized how important it is, in order to drive things forward, to simplify any finding, strategy, or decision into its simplest form possible, no matter how seemingly complex it may seem.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Aayush Gupta — Create

Aayush Gupta is a venture builder. His mission is to create startups, from ideation to business launch. His passion for entrepreneurship, innovation, and design has taken him across various international experiences: currently, he works at Create, a venture studio backed by 20 of New York City’s most successful founders, and previously he delivered corporate innovation for Fortune 500 clients at Frog Design — part of Capgemini Invent — helping clients like McDonalds, Vanguard, and Stanley Black & Decker.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I precisely remember where and when I had my first professional meeting discussing “business innovation”. I was fresh out of high school and on my gap year working for IBM’s consumer packaged goods consulting team out of London. Together with my leadership team and a few senior executives from Unilever, we had gathered, of all places, at an 18th century mansion in the South of England — which IBM happened to own — to discuss innovation practices that would drive growth for the CPG giant into the next decade. On the agenda was everything from exploratory use-cases for biometric sensor technology to scaling the company’s rural area focused retail distribution initiative called Project Shakti. My career has moved a good deal past the corporate innovation world, but looking back to that meeting, the excitement I felt from the expansiveness and creativity of the ideas we discussed is still palpable. That exercise of thinking through the future and designing new experiments had me hooked back then and still does today as I continue my journey in innovation.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

One of my early projects in design consulting had me sitting behind a wall of one-way mirrors staring into a room with a table full of senior citizens discussing their ideal retirement home. This was my first and likely last time ever in a focus group research facility. The whole dynamic was both so intriguing and odd at the same time. I learned a great deal that day…about senior preferences and fears as it relates to aging in place, about research moderation and UX observation techniques…but, after hours behind a tinted glass, I feel like I also came back with a good sense of what it would feel like to be an FBI agent observing an active interrogation — I have to say, it’s less exciting and a lot more waiting around than you think it would be.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

Be interested in others. It’s easy to get consumed by our own lives — that is by our likes, our needs, and our wants — or of these immediately around us. But we’re fortunate to share this planet with billions of others whose lived experience is so unimaginably unique from ours that we ought to make time to listen to and learn about (and from) others. (This is a lot easier said and done if you live in a place like New York, like I do.) This interest in other’s way and state of living has also been incredibly valuable as a product builder because the more I stop and listen, the more opportunities I see to make a difference.

Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

Within the next few years we’re going to see the traditional venture world intensify its embrace of the venture studio space. This will take shape in one of two ways: (1) venture funds increasing their asset allocation and commitments to big name studios, or, more interestingly, (2) funds starting to take a more proactive role in early-stage venture building by either partnering strategically with studios or launching studios of their own.

How do you think this will change the world?

There are many implications from a shift like this, but perhaps most interesting is the potential impact on “founder-investor” relations. Historically speaking, there’s been a big power dynamic in favor of venture investors whose access to capital was the necessary fuel to bring the vision of any founder to life. Recently, however, given an extremely competitive venture investing market, with increased competition from behemoth’s of the likes of Softbank and Tiger Global, VC’s have had to compete with one another at great lengths in order to get access to deals. In response to this competition, we’re likely to see more investor experimentation with the build-from-scratch model that venture studios present. In some cases, where the funds recruit an external operator to launch their companies, we’ll see a new depth to the founder-investor partnership form as the inception of these bonds moves to the earliest, most existential stage of the company building journey possible. In other cases, we’ll start to see increasing use of the “revolving door” between operating and investing as VC’s set off to launch these companies themselves — even if not fully as founders, we’ll see them operate as invisible co-founders (ICFs) or very active board members (VABMs).

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

The one big risk here is reputational. It’s all well and good if VC’s move into proactive venture building, but the question is how and when they do this. In the worst case possible, we’ll hear of scenarios where big name funds that couldn’t get access to particular deals turned around and decided to incubate a competitor instead. There’s nothing wrong with some healthy competition, of course. The call-out here is mostly for founders to be somewhat more careful with ideas, data rooms, and non-disclosures when approaching fundraising.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

The studio space has been a long time coming, but it feels that the last year in particular has been game-changing for the asset class. First, we saw two major studio exits in the form of Snowflake (incubated out of Mike Speiser’s Sutter Hill Ventures), which IPO’d at a $12B valuation in September 2020, and Hims & Hers (incubated out of Atomic), which was valued at $1.6B when it went public via SPAC in January earlier this year. Next, we saw an impressive two weeks of studio fundraising announcements in March of this year, where $770M was raised across four major studio players in the US. If there is any time for the studio model to explode — in terms of new experiments, models, scale, etc — it is now!

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

The one big piece of “infrastructure” that will be crucial for funds to invest in as they enter the venture building world is a sustainable mechanism for surfacing founder talent to launch their companies. One potential solution to this would be exploring a “founder scout” model similar to how funds currently use scouts to access early-stage venture deals.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Simplify as much as possible — I’ve always appreciated how a three line haiku can be dissected into multiple pages of analytical commentary. But while deep exploration is both fun and necessary to unlock new insight, I’ve realized how important it is, in order to drive things forward, to simplify any finding, strategy, or decision into its simplest form possible, no matter how seemingly complex it may seem.

Evaluate often and share early — along the lines of simplification, I’ve also appreciated the power of assessing new inputs (e.g. information from research) early and often as a means to drive faster decision-making on the fly.

Explore pains in your personal experience, no matter how big or small — this one is more new idea generation related, but it’s often easy to either discount one’s own experience or lose sight of it altogether. Personal connection to a pain point can make all the difference when pursuing early-stage ideas, so I’ve learned to tune in to various levels of frictions and low points in my life as potential areas to solve for.

Maximize responding, minimize reacting — there is a very high frequency of existential questions that need to to be dealt with in early-stage venture building. I’ve found that for the questions that can wait, it helps to step away and revisit with a calmer mind that’s better able to process information rationally.

Value your people skills — I’ve realized that culture building, particularly for early-stage startups, is crucial in driving high-performing teams, but it does not always come naturally to all leaders. Over time, I’ve come to value my own ability to forge meaningful bonds and create special moments amongst peers. I’m excited to continue to invest in this strength as a way to build community in any initiative I’m part of.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Besides some of the few points I mentioned above, one habit that I find continues to stand out for successful people around me is their speed of execution. They come to believe in something and waste no time in moving ahead on it — often making 4–5 times the shots on target in the time that others have made just one.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

As you well know, there has been no more exciting time to build than today. Now imagine reaching into the idea maze and going deep on one or two ideas in the next year — what spaces would you choose to post a flag in? Who would you bring on to build with?

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Reach out and let’s connect! I’m @ https://www.linkedin.com/in/aayushgupta1

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Venture Studios: Aayush Gupta’s Big Idea That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Brand Makeovers: David Farmer of AD GIANTS On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize…

Brand Makeovers: David Farmer of AD GIANTS On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Give and give freely. We all have skills we are blessed with, and there are others who need the benefit if your talents. Doesn’t matter what it is. Be kind, be empathetic and motivate through your acts of kindness.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview David Farmer.

David Farmer, CEO and founder of AD GIANTS, uses his key passion and expertise as a global brand builder and award-winning strategic marketer to help small businesses and entrepreneurs achieve their dreams of leading successful enterprises. He used this passion to create AD GIANTS, a subscription-based full agency experience at prices small businesses can afford. Prior to starting AD GIANTS, he served as the creative strategist for clients in a variety of business cycles and helped maneuver their businesses through good and bad times while keeping their brands relevant to their audiences.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My path to becoming an advertising executive on the creative side of the business came by accident. Growing up, I always enjoyed art, but I didn’t know how to make a career out of it. My father was a business executive in the oil and gas industry, so I had no idea about the advertising world. In my junior year at college, I decided I didn’t like studying law and switched my major to art. My dad thought I had lost my mind. Then I read a book about how to build a great art portfolio. I built my portfolio and went to Madison Avenue in New York to meet with advertising agencies. I landed a job in the art department on my sixth interview.

This was before the days of creating graphic art on the computer. We used to hand draw mechanical art. I had never done this before, but I did have an aptitude for learning. A seasoned artist took pity on my and took me under his wing the first week. He really showed me the ropes and mentored me.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing or branding mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

During my first couple of years in the creative department, I was a typical “temperamental creative artist” and focused on developing-award winning campaigns. One thing I learned early on by was to see things through the eyes of your potential customer first, and then your client. After that, the value of how to sell an idea. How did I learn this? I was at McCann Erickson and worked under Jesse Ceasar, the guy who came up with the iconic advertising campaign and slogan “Put a Tiger in Your Tank” for ExxonMobil. I watched his process; how he led the creative teams and the clients. He was an absolute master of developing and selling ideas that worked. He really understood what the customer was looking for, then he sold it well.

From then on, my goal was to prove you could do both, be creative and create ads that work. When I got to the position of leading creative departments, I tried to teach them to look at art to get interest rather than being an art form and teach them not to make the same mistakes I had when coming up in the business. Too many young advertising creatives do work that makes them laugh, but it ends there. I always focused on effectiveness. Most creative folks hated that because it’s too hard. A fart joke is easy, making people want to smell it is the hard part.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?

My tipping point occurred when I reached the creative director level. Not only did I lead teams in developing effective campaigns, I was also responsible for developing my team. I was also being asked by the account team to join new business presentations because they saw how passionate I was about our work and could think like a client. From that exposure, I learned an advertising agency’s value was dependent on great work. You can’t attract new business without performance. Winning creative awards alone doesn’t cut it. Clients demand performance. I began to craft all my presentation language around that single goal, and quickly learned that selling was fun and rewarding.

My skills weren’t just about creative art but building trust and winning new business. Once you can figure out how to make rain, your value becomes exponential. I learned to be the total player, understand the client’s business, and sell our work. I discovered success was not just about being a solid creative person, you also have to know how to win at all levels.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

After years of seeing ad agencies just trying to make a buck without focusing on client success is what led me in large part to leave that world and create Ad Giants. We’re a subscription-based, full-service agency experience at prices small businesses can afford. We simplify the marketing process by connecting small business owners and/or entrepreneurs with a proven advertising executive who then uses their decades of experience to create a customized marketing strategy with vetted resource partners and tools. All the work is managed on a simple technology platform so owners can keep apprised of the work being done on behalf of their businesses.

I didn’t build Ad Giants just for the money. It’s about helping the millions of small businesses that are targeted daily by a slew of “make a buck” marketing people out there. Any business, no matter how big or small needs a solid marketing strategy.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Really get involved with your clients. Understand their pain points. Be a true partner to them versus just some person that produces cute work. Think strategically and use your business knowledge. Think about clients business models and how you can help them realize actual growth. Creativity happens in every aspect of business.

Ok, let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

They go hand in hand. You need advertising to create a brand, and you cannot have a brand without advertising.

At the brand level, it’s about the big picture for the company, the end goal should drive all activity. Nike didn’t start by saying we’re going to be just a great shoe company; they had the goal of being the most influential and dominant brand in all of sports. The marketing built the personality of the brand — the attitude. All great brands have that in common. A true brand personality that aligns with their products.

I always tell my customers that if their business was a person, describe who you want them to be, to look like, to speak like, etc. Humanizing brands is how we connect with people. How we attract brand loyalists. Apple used to mean something profound with Steve Jobs leading it. In my opinion, the true innovation has stopped for them. Point being, they’re a perfect case study for how to change the persona of a brand, and not for the better.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

Again, they are symbiotic. But before you invest those resources and energy, having a sound business strategy is key. If you don’t have one, you’re wasting money. Ad Giants works with small business owners, and we ask owners why they started their companies. Why this? There’s a reason if you peel back the layers. Maybe it’s a skill, or a passion they have, or a family business they want to continue. We then ask where do you want your business to go? Do you want to be a craft brand or build the company and sell out to a larger competitor? Ultimately it all revolves around listening to our clients and building solid strategies.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

Brands have lifecycles — as they grow you must redefine as it grows. Here are the reasons to rebrand:

  • a company rebrands when they’ve lost consumer love, confidence, and loyalty;
  • when the company never addressed branding properly when they started and now have to play catch up;
  • they did something wrong, and the old brand is now synonymous with “badness”;
  • they’ve grown tired and need to be refreshed;
  • they’ve launched a new product or service which gives them the opportunity to rebrand and relaunch.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

Cost is a major downside. To do it right, it’s going to cost a lot. Depending on the size and age of the brand, it could easily run into millions. New CMO’s are famous for coming to a brand and totally changing it based on their network and desire to make a mark. Doesn’t make it right. That’s why the average lifespan of a CMO is two years. Even small business owners run into that trap. All that does is confuse the consumer. Change it too many times and you lose all brand identity. I’ve seen that happen a lot.

The “makeover” can be as simple as just refreshing the messaging or a new mantra. However, it really comes back to what’s happening at customer level. If your brand has gone stale, it’s probably product related. If you’re not delivering the products your customers want or need, a brand makeover won’t help. You need to look at product innovation.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share 5 strategies that a company can do to upgrade and re-energize their brand and image”? Please tell us a story or an example for each.

  1. Start with a candid assessment of where your business is. Not just the brand, your products or services, your customers, your growth. Where are you?
  2. Now, where do you want to be? Is that important to others? I cannot stress enough that having a thought through strategy with key points you can attain means everything.
  3. Are you better or different than others in your category? Why? What leverage can we create to set you apart? It doesn’t’ need to me much, it just needs to be focused and valuable to people. Many brands were built on a single advantage or benefit. The more you have to talk, the less people hear. Say one thing, say it well, and say it with passion and often. Too often, companies jump immediately to tactics, like a new logo, website, advertising and give little consideration of the final destination. That happens all the time.
  4. From there, the tactics naturally fall out. Excellence in thinking is just as important as excellence in execution. What if an army general said “guys, we’re going to go over there tomorrow and beat the hell out of the enemy! Let’s go!” Versus, “Guys, we each have critical roles in defeating the enemy. Here’s my plan and how we’ll execute the mission to take them off guard and win.” I’ll go with general number two.
  5. Spend your money wisely. Comes down the tactics — excellence and execution. This is where many fall short. Pick one thing and do it right.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job doing a “Brand Makeover”. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

Hands down over the past 20 years, I think the best brand makeover is Holiday Inn Express, which was reincarnated from Holiday Inn, that tired, old motel brand built along major interstates across the country. When Holiday Inn first started in the 1960s, it appealed to families who road tripped on vacations. But over the years, the brand became middle of the road and stale.

When a private equity company purchased it, they changed their “product” to appeal to the road warrior business traveler. They re-branded with the tagline “Stay Smarter” which was genius. And the executions of that new brand identity were incredible. They show actual people in situations that required being smarter. They started to appeal to a new age market who didn’t remember the hold Holiday Inn brand. Stay at Holiday Inn Express makes you smarter. Can’t get any clearer than that.

Often branding is changing people’s minds which is harder and more expensive to do. In this case, they captured the new middle market by changing the product and rebranded.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

In whatever you do in business and in life, give without expecting anything in return. Just like that art director who took me under his wing to teach me about mechanical art at my first agency job.

Give and give freely. We all have skills we are blessed with, and there are others who need the benefit if your talents. Doesn’t matter what it is. Be kind, be empathetic and motivate through your acts of kindness.

I genuinely believe this stuff comes back to you. I have advanced more in life by giving more to people. I give myself through Ad Giants because I genuinely care about helping people who had the courage to start a business and for many reasons are lost, or in need of clarity. So many of these small business owners have been taken advantage of, and I feel I’m here to help them. I really do care about their success.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Time lost is never found again.”

Most people hear all the time to live each day as if it’s your last. Living that way is impossible for most not because they can’t, because they won’t. It’s human nature. Once you give your life over to that philosophy, it all changes. Everything even smells and tastes better.

As a reminder to myself, I have this inscribed on the back of a nice watch I purchased years ago. I’ll pass this watch down to my son, and I hope he takes it as a reminder too.

Be the person you would brag about, the person you would hold up and the person your dog sees you as!

How can our readers follow you online?

I have a series of blog posts on the Ad Giants Web site which is www.adgiants.com

Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.


Brand Makeovers: David Farmer of AD GIANTS On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Rising Through Resilience: Author Michelle Atlas On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More…

Rising Through Resilience: Author Michelle Atlas On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Learn to Thrive. When we go through a tough time or a learning curve, there is usually a breaking down of what was familiar; a loss of our previous normal. If you are resilient you will probably cycle through a variety of emotions, and ultimately return to your baseline. That is surviving. Surviving is returning to where you were, or something like your previous normal.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Michelle Atlas PCC, Founder of Michelle Atlas Coaching.

Michelle empowers deep, intuitive women (and a few men) to create change they didn’t think possible in their relationship to money, their businesses, and themselves. She has taught “Resilient Leadership” to US federal government leaders, authored the dailyOM course “Overcoming Money Shame”, co-authored “The Superwoman Entrepreneur, How to Turn Your Breakdowns into Breakthroughs”, and created the popular “Activate Your Money Flow” twelve-week coaching program. Michelle is currently writing her first book “The Sovereign Woman Entrepreneur”, to help women reclaim their self-trust, so they can build their businesses guided by their intuition, creativity, and wisdom. Based in the US, Michelle coaches and speaks internationally on the psychology of money and living resiliently. https://michelleatlas.com

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

I’ve always known I was meant to work intimately with others, to help them release barriers, grow, and express their greater potential. From a very young age I was a detective, seeking lessons in my toughest times. Right after college I went to live in a yoga and meditation community and unexpectedly stayed for twelve years, during which time I spent fourteen months in India. Those years anchored me in a meditation practice that I continue to this day. I went on to work in human services with people with traumatic brain injury and mental illness. After eighteen years, I knew it was time to convert my training, my expertise and the wisdom I had mined from my life, into a business that could bring other intuitive, creative women to greater fulfillment and success. That’s when I took the leap into what I call the “entrepreneurial adventure.” I received the blessings of the best-selling resilience expert Al Seibert, PhD, to become masterful in his work, before he passed away in 2009. Then I was invited to teach Resilient Leadership to top US federal government leaders for five years during the Obama Administration. In the years that followed, I obtained additional coaching certifications in multiple modalities. I have developed a huge transformational toolbox that includes courses, retreats, and private coaching packages to help women all over the world empower their relationship to money and grow their businesses, in alignment with their souls’ calling. I feel extremely fortunate to do work I love; helping other women soar in their businesses and lives.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I’ve experienced a lot of serendipity as an entrepreneur. Twelve years ago, while making a cup of tea, I felt an overwhelming intuition that I should call Al Seibert, to explore becoming certified in his resilience work. He picked up the phone and in no time we were immersed in conversation. He had certified less than a dozen people worldwide in his resilience model and recognized that I had a lived experience of resilience, and not only an academic fascination. We made plans to move forward. Unfortunately he passed away a short time later, which led to my receiving an unexpected invitation to take a piece of his high-level, federal government contract, teaching Resilient Leadership. I had always trusted my intuition when making significant decisions in my personal life. This experience revealed to me that bringing my intuitive gifts into my business decisions, could also be a source of success.

A few years later, I made another intuitive decision that changed the trajectory of my business. When I became a coach, I was skillful at facilitating transformation, yet I didn’t know exactly how to build a prosperous business. I learned of an event on the west coast that I believed would provide the perfect remedy. However, I didn’t think I could afford the trip.

A large part of my work with women is helping them expand beyond their status quo. In the spirit of walking my talk, I invested beyond my comfort level to attend that event. While there, again I felt guided from within to commit to a year-long mentorship that cost almost seven times what the event had cost! The next day, while flying back east, the complete stranger in the seat next to me, hired me on the spot for a fee equal to half of my investment! Two weeks later she referred someone to me whose company paid me two times more than the remaining tab for the year-long mentorship.

This exemplifies one of the most important lessons of my entrepreneurial journey, and one I teach to all my clients. When you take a risk to expand, life will meet you. Whether the return comes immediately, like mine did, or later, it will often exceed what you can imagine.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

When a creative, conscientious woman shows up on my virtual doorstep, frustrated after trying a multitude of unsuccessful strategies to grow her business, that’s my cue that she has beliefs she is not yet aware of, sabotaging her results. While strategy is obviously important, we each carry emotions that profoundly influence the decisions we make and thus the results we achieve.

I offer a unique blend of deep transformational guidance, with practical resilience and money empowerment coaching. As a result, clients experience self-healing while accelerating their business growth.

Sonja is a beautiful example of the way that this dual approach can provide both lucrative and personally fulfilling results. She is the creator of a high-quality line of personal care products, with contracts all over the world. Sonja came to work with me because she sensed that she was under-valuing her product and herself. When speaking with her customers, she found herself habitually discounting her products. Referencing the characteristics of the Queen Archetype, we created a powerful posture for her to use during her business negotiations. This helped her transform feelings of unworthiness into clarity and confidence. She also identified the right price point for her products. The very next time Sonja spoke with her largest international customer, she stood (literally) in her value. For the first time, she discounted nothing and received instant buy-in.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My aunt was extremely significant in my own resilience trajectory. She was a psychotherapist and we were very close. When I was about thirteen, she and I began having special conversations. Light bulb after lightbulb went on as her wisdom helped me make sense of my toughest family experiences. The emotional connection and respect that I consistently received from my aunt, combined with the personal empowerment I gained through what I learned from her, had a profound impact upon my life and work. I believe that my relationship to my aunt, more than any other, influenced my career choice and my passion for personal development and transformational work.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Research tells us that we are wired to grow and evolve through challenge and change, but it must be self-directed. What that means is resilient people take 100% responsibility for their experience of their life. They choose to not live as victims of that which they cannot control. And they intentionally seek to fortify their resilience. Examples of self-directing your resilience might be ensuring that you have quality relationships and support, cultivating a spiritual practice, getting enough rest, eating well, meditating, journaling, or a creative pursuit. The particular recipe for each person will be unique. We discover our resilience from the inside out. Resilient people have the confidence that although they may not have the perfect solution to a problem immediately, they will find their way. They have an orientation of growth and learning toward their challenges and losses. Not in an unrealistic everything-is-always-rosy way, but with an openness to new possibilities and discoveries. They focus their attention and efforts on what they can influence. They embrace and adapt to whatever life sends their way and they use every life experience as an asset.

A common misunderstanding is that resilient people are “thick skinned.” That would require a person to disassociate from the full range of human emotion. When hit with a challenge or a tough time, a resilient person may cycle through a wide range of feelings, including perhaps anger, resentment, or grief. What distinguishes the resilient from the non-resilient person, is that the resilient person experiences his or her feelings, yet does not remain hostage to them. They know that difficulties are temporary and do not take them personally. During times of change they can flex in ways that are beneficial to both themselves and to all concerned.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

It’s hard to choose one person. I have always loved Viktor Frankl because he used his experience of surviving unthinkable atrocities to catalyze his search for meaning in life. I love the way he speaks of meaning as something fluid and changeable. I also resonate greatly with his perspective on changing one’s self rather than another person or external circumstances when something is not working for you.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

I can’t think of a time I’ve been told that something was impossible :).

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

About ten years ago, I experienced the loss of a romantic relationship that sent shockwaves through my system, and re-activated some childhood traumas I didn’t know existed. Although I had done an enormous amount of work on myself, there were still stones unturned. In resiliency psychology, there is an understanding that when the impact of an event or circumstance exceeds the resources of that which it is impacting, there will be a descent. For the first time in my life, I found myself devastated.

Prior to this loss I had experienced a particular type of self-consciousness that I could not seem to shake, no matter how I tried. It showed up most excruciatingly, when interacting socially or with a new potential friend. There was a free-floating fear that morphed into a disassociation from my body. This fear lived right behind my eyes, in the muscles of my lips and in the tension that froze my face. It expressed, by preventing me from maintaining eye contact for longer than a few seconds. Being in close proximity to another person (other than a handful of very close friends) surfaced an unrelenting pressure. It felt like I was hiding something from them, but did not know what.

I observed others in intimate interactions with their friends and loved ones, looking into each other’s eyes (and souls) as they spoke and shared. How I longed for this!

The moment that relationship ended, although I was overcome with immobilizing pain, I sensed that the impact would bring me face-to-face with something that I had been avoiding my entire life.

Over the weeks and months that followed I began to experience feelings of self-loathing that I had never felt before. Instead of avoiding them with distractions, I sat with them. I allowed them to burn through me (and admitted them to trusted others), with brutal honesty.

Then one day standing near my dining room table, a rumbling started deep in my core. I sensed something enormous impending, like the subtle tremors that occur right before an earthquake. Within moments, the vibration rose from deep in my solar plexus, up into my heart-space and then into my throat.

In a flash, I was wailing like a wounded animal. It was violent, and ecstatic. I had exploded into a gut wrenching, tsunami of GRIEF.

It went on for what may have been minutes, but felt much longer, ultimately resolving naturally.

The peace and quiet throughout me immediately after, cannot be described in words. The landscape within, became silent. I had been emptied. Completely.

I realized that from the time I was very young, I had been carrying buckets of shame and grief. And the energy it took to keep a lifetime of difficult feelings under wraps, was also keeping me from authentic connection with others. My unfelt grief had been holding me hostage, my entire life.

In the coming months, my grief was my most treasured friend. It was the antidote to my shame and self-loathing. Once I immersed myself in the sacred, cleansing river of grief, I always emerged with brighter eyes and a more open heart. Every tear I shed seemed to strip away another conditioned idea, or a contrived false identity or pretense, leaving only the tender, undefended, essential me. Whole. Alive. Sovereign. Here.

As I came to be at home in my own skin, looking deeply into the eyes of another for as long as I wished became as natural as saying “hello”. The depth and presence I came to embody through that wild and beautiful ride has remained with me, unwavering.

My grief brought me into integrity with myself, which has allowed my business and life to evolve in unprecedented ways, ever since. It changed everything.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

My parents were threatened by others’ achievements, happiness and wealth. My conditioning taught me that emotional safety was guaranteed only when I was serving the needs of those around me, to the exclusion of my own desires and interests. I was an only child. As the target of my mother’s emotionally abusive outbursts, I learned to survive masterfully, by disowning what lit me up.

Yet even as a little girl, right smack in the middle of that battlefield, I knew that somehow I would find my way back to the me I had been robbed of, with my original gifts intact. There were many magical moments that were like bread crumbs, pointing me toward healing and the life I wanted.

  • When I laid my little four-year-old body down on the warm, sundrenched city pavement outside of our apartment and gushed with well-being.
  • The time when I was only eight years old that I was enveloped in a deep affinity for the Tibetan monks on the cover of my father’s National Geographic magazines. Their peace and joy seemed to mirror both my distant past, and the future I knew I would discover.
  • When, as a teenager, I saw the tag on a piece of clothing branded “Ahimsa”. I didn’t know that it was Gandhi’s term for non-violence. Yet, it filled me with inspiration. I clung to the word, repeating it like a mantra, not knowing why.

By the time I hit adolescence, I had begun the journey to transform my toughest times into assets. I became a voracious reader of books on personal development, psychology, and spirituality and cultivated deep friendships where I could process my most difficult experiences. Those friendships have also been resilient, and are still thriving today, forty years later. I have dedicated my life to cultivating my own resilience so I could, as my mother, in an uncharacteristic moment of kindness, once told me, “do something beautiful” with it.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Fill Your Own Tank First. If you were driving cross country, would you leave with an empty tank, drive all the way to your destination, and fill your tank upon arrival? If so, you probably wouldn’t make it. When we feed our own soul before undertaking tasks and responsibilities, we expand our capacity to give and create from a place of fulfillment. We also have more energy, and we can get more done in less time. Another resilience essential is to build periods of recovery into your day. No matter how busy you are, taking short breaks where you step away from your desk, move, or spend a moment in nature are important. And a social interaction that provides connection or activates a different emotion can greatly increase your resilience. You are the most important resource in your business. Discover what fortifies you and make it non-negotiable.
  2. Access Multiple Types of Intelligence to Make Decisions and Solve Problems. Many entrepreneurs believe that only their logical mind can help them grow their business. While logic is useful, we are multidimensional. The last time I offered my coaching program (which helps women entrepreneurs empower their relationship to money) I decided to try a new marketing approach. Rather than the conventional e-mail and webinar sequence commonly used, which I find mechanical and depleting, I taught the module that moves me the most, free of charge, in depth. I decided not to worry about “giving away” too much and to instead, to focus solely on touching people, just as the work touches me. The results were phenomenal. I delivered the material on a wave of inspiration and the enrollment that followed, tripled my earnings! Next time you find yourself troubleshooting an important issue, consider possible solutions through a variety of lenses. What does your gut say? What does your practical mind say? What if you try something that seems a little wild, but really lights you up? When you close your eyes and breathe deeply, what kind of guidance is revealed, beyond logic? What do you WANT to do? Release over-thinking and instead go towards what feels expansive. We are capable of more than we know. Accessing different ways of knowing will help you create unprecedented solutions and new possibilities in your business and your life.
  3. Become a True Life-Long Learner. One of the most voracious enemies to resilience for an entrepreneur is thinking that you should know everything already, or that you should not take action until you can do something perfectly. Emma had dreamt of launching a group program on a topic she felt passionate about, in her coaching business. The first time she offered it, she did not receive much interest. Instead of labeling it a failure or giving up on her vision, she quickly adapted. She realized she felt more comfortable initiating this new body of work in a one-on- one format. When she did so, she enrolled several people immediately.
    -Being a learner allows you to take risks, make mistakes, learn meaningful lessons and course correct, all crucial capacities for success. When you let yourself off the hook from thinking that you should already be masterful, you enter the realm of discovery. Living in discovery is what inspires us to reinvent and stretch outside of our status quo over and over. Resilient, successful people do a lot of both.
  4. Empower Your Relationship to Money. Our relationship to money is about a lot more than money. For most of us, it has a tremendous amount to do with our sense of personal worthiness. We each have unique money gifts and blind spots. Learning how to play to your specific money strengths and illuminate your money blind spots, rather than following someone else’s list of money “do’s and don’t’s”, can be game changing. It’s equally important to understand how the conditioning that you received earlier in life, may be driving your money decisions now, because you can’t create what you want, by making decisions through someone else’s glasses. Once you have a handle on these keys to money empowerment, you will know which business tasks are not your strong suit, so you can outsource them. Most importantly, you will be able to focus your time, energy and attention on tasks that energize and move you. This will also generate more income.
  5. Learn to Thrive. When we go through a tough time or a learning curve, there is usually a breaking down of what was familiar; a loss of our previous normal. If you are resilient you will probably cycle through a variety of emotions, and ultimately return to your baseline. That is surviving. Surviving is returning to where you were, or something like your previous normal.

Thriving is different. When the impact of an event or circumstance exceeds your resources, there is usually a descent of sorts. Those who thrive, allow the intensity of loss, grief, and pain to not only break them down, but to break them open. To strip them of the pretense and contrived self-concepts that keep them in predictable lives, careers and businesses, where they may not be expressing their full potential. They seek richness and meaningful lessons even in their roughest times. Thriving occurs when we become a more alive, whole, fully expressed version of ourselves than we ever might have become had we not experienced the difficulty. When the relationship I mentioned earlier in this article ended, I became much more vulnerable and authentic in my business and relationships, than I was prior to my loss.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-).

For decades women, particularly women in positions of leadership, have been conditioned and acculturated away from their innate gifts. I would love to expand the work I currently do, helping women reclaim their self-trust so they can lead with their intuition, creativity, and the gold mine of wisdom they hold. This involves shedding what has been in the way of what I call your “sovereign soul”, the version of you that existed prior to all of the messages you received and the identities you contrived to get love and acceptance earlier in life.

There is nothing more powerful than a woman in full integrity with herself. I would inspire and challenge more women to bring their whole selves to their leadership style, rather than the half-expressed versions they have been told are acceptable. It begins by claiming our right to live as the authority in our own life. Then converting that innate authority into self-leadership to grow your business is easy.

I believe that much of the violence and pain in our world reflects self-alienation. We won’t solve the problems of our aching, transforming, birthing world with old ways of seeing and operating. Our intuition, creativity, and sensitivity, are desperately needed to transform the rampant reactivity we are now experiencing, into open-hearted compassion.

From a resilience perspective, where there has been hardship, there is often beauty. We need to value the depth and wisdom that comes from life’s losses and hardships. Empowering women entrepreneurs to heal themselves, so they can touch others with their brilliance and their medicine is my passion. I am committed to helping women embrace their whole selves and lead from a place of true power, so we can create a kinder and more effective world.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-).

Dr. Jean Huston

Because she is a teacher’s teacher, and a living embodiment of human possibility. She is a living inspiration to the potential that exists in each of us. Jean’s brilliance and uplifting presence make her a diamond in this world. She has created a thriving business and achieved extraordinary success helping people tap their depths and heights, in complete authenticity. I would feel very blessed to speak with her.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Facebook: The Sovereign Woman Entrepreneur’s Community

https://www.facebook.com/groups/502656447333728

Facebook: Michelle Atlas Coaching
https://www.facebook.com/michelleatlascoaching

Instagram

https://www.instagram.com/moneycode123/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Rising Through Resilience: Author Michelle Atlas On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Corey Smith of LVMH, Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, On How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom…

Corey Smith of LVMH, Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, On How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

By having diverse backgrounds, experiences, cultures, languages, and skill sets present in the decision-making process, you introduce cognitive diversity as well. With this diversity of thought, you inherently breed innovation because it eliminates homogeneous thinking, which can be a barrier to future relevancy.

As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Corey Smith, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion LVMH North America.

Corey Smith is Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion at LVMH North America. Prior to joining LVMH in September of 2020, Corey was Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Major League Baseball. With over 20 years in Diversity & Inclusion (D&I), Smith has worked in several industries including manufacturing, technology, education, consumer products, entertainment, media and sports.

He has served on several boards including Diversity Information Resources (DIR) and served as Board Chair for the NY/NJ Minority Supplier Development Council. Mr. Smith holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering and a MBA, both from Columbia University.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into the main part of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share a bit of your “backstory” with us?

My career in D&I (Diversity & Inclusion) really started before I even realized it was a path I was pursuing.

My career began at IBM working for one of their largest hardware repair facilities in the US, one created during the Civil Rights Era to provide jobs to minorities in an area that struggled economically. As my first job out of college, I worked in an environment that was predominantly Black, from the general manager to the executives. It was incredibly empowering to see people that looked like me in the decision-making positions, particularly within one of IBM’s most successful plants in the US. I was too young to recognize it as D&I, but the intentionality of a corporation to be so proactive around an inclusionary business action (such as job creation in a minority neighborhood) speaks to how impactful corporate America can be when it chooses inclusion.

Launching from that experience, I worked at Columbia University in procurement, where I was part of the team that launched the Supplier Diversity program, harnessing the University’s significant local spend with minority-owned businesses in the neighboring Harlem area. I also spent some time in the consumer goods industry at Altria Corporate Services, which at the time was the parent company of Kraft Foods and Philip Morris. Altria had a $1B annual Supplier Diversity program and was a world class leader in Supplier Diversity. After Altria I went into the entertainment/media industry, at NBC Universal (NBCU). There I increased the Supplier Diversity program from an annual spend of $80M to $500Min 5 years, as well as pursued my interest in more traditional, HR-focused D&I by becoming involved in the ERGs. From NBCU I joined Major League Baseball where I grew the Supplier Diversity program from $70Mto $400M annually. We created 9 ERGs (employee resource groups) and fostered programs to create business development for diverse businesses, from economic support to licensing and sponsorship partnerships. It was a fully integrated D&I program, strategically shifting corporate culture and enhancing the business bottom line simultaneously.

I joined LVMH in 2020 and am excited about the work ahead. We have already had incredible successes: raising donations for both BLM organizations and Stop AAAPI Hate organizations, creating a new 30% goal of POC representation at senior leadership levels, launching a formal Supplier Diversity program with 10 of our brands in 2021, hosting events for our employees around Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Mental Health Awareness, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and Pride Month, which shows our support for all dimensions of diversity in our workforce. In addition to the two existing ERGs EllesVMH (women) and ALL LVMH (LGBTQ+), we have launched a Black ERG in 2021, furthering inclusion in our community. There is a lot of work ahead, but our commitment to DE&I is unwavering.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

I tell this story as the best case for “lead by example.” While working at IBM and managing the Shipping/Receiving team, I had calculated more efficient ways for us to load and unload trucks to save us time, energy and money. In trying to implement my new approach, none of the team on the dock would listen to me. The dock foreman told me my idea wouldn’t work but I was adamant, because I knew my math and calculations were right. To that he said “but you don’t know how to drive a fork truck and all these guys know it” they wouldn’t listen to me because I had never done the job. I had been sitting in the office with spreadsheets and formulas, but it was time to actually learn to drive a fork truck. And, in fact, my calculations were wrong because there was so much I wasn’t accounting for because I had never done the work. Once I did the work, not only did I have the support from my department, but then they helped to solve for inefficiencies. The takeaway is do the work and lead by example.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you tell us a story about how that was relevant in your own life?

My life lessons are plenty and come mostly from my parents who both emigrated to the US from Panama. My mother received a PhD, was a college professor, author, consultant, and entrepreneur. My father never finished college, and English wasn’t his first language, therefore the only jobs he could get were manual labor. Through hard work, he went on to become an entrepreneur and ran a successful business for 40 years. My parents, considering their humble beginnings, instilled in me that education is important, even from their “opposite-end-of-the-spectrum” perspectives. Life is about the options and opportunities you are afforded and most important, if you are not afforded them — make them yourself.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

I have been fortunate that at every step of my journey, there has been diversity, either a woman or a person of color (or the intersection of both), that has made the decision to hire me. I also know that is a rarity. Diversity at the top breeds more inclusive work environments. A stand-out is Jonathan Mariner, who was CFO at MLB the first few years I was there. He was great at counseling me to temper my “diversity lens” against “business decisions” to drive long-lasting impact.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

There are quite a few short-term and long-term D&I projects underway currently. One of our most exciting deliverables we announced earlier this year was to increase POC representation in senior leadership positions to 30% within 5 years. We are replicating a successful model of increasing our gender representation that was a long-standing commitment made by the organization over 15 years ago. The success achieved in having more women in senior leadership across the organization prompted us to duplicate it across other dimensions of diversity. Representation at the top supports retention of talent and increases innovation, which then improves corporate culture and impacts profitability.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I think there is a business case for DE&I but then there also are the moral obligations and responsibilities to serve as a good citizen of this world. I believe my biggest contributions have been to diverse entrepreneurs. Through Supplier Diversity I have been afforded the ability to help so many diverse business owners start and grow their companies. They in turn get to employ others and help them live a better life. It is a personal passion of mine because I truly believe that entrepreneurship and ownership are what can help mitigate some of the historical disparities that have been caused by years of marginalization and disenfranchisement, especially of people of color.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line. (Please share a story or example for each.)

It’s important to note that diversity on its own doesn’t impact the bottom line. It is the inclusion of diverse voices and ideas that help a company improve and increase profit.

  1. By having diverse backgrounds, experiences, cultures, languages, and skill sets present in the decision-making process, you introduce cognitive diversity as well. With this diversity of thought, you inherently breed innovation because it eliminates homogeneous thinking, which can be a barrier to future relevancy.
  2. When people feel valued as a welcomed contributor to an organization, they stay at that company which can lead to high retention rates contributing to efficiency and increased productivity.
  3. When people are allowed to bring their full and best selves to work, they perform better, again increasing productivity and innovative thinking.
  4. Diverse suppliers as a part of your supply chain actually help mitigate internal costs which also increases profit, either through supply chain competition which drives down cost or through innovation and efficiency in their processes.
  5. An organization’s ability to increase market share or create market differentiation from competitors is directly tied to the ability to speak authentically and resonate to that market. Having diversity internally helps achieve that.

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive?

As a leader you have to be empathetic and culturally agile and must value diversity. You have to know that “difference” is a value-add, not “less than.” When employees feel as if their unique characteristics and skill sets are valued by the organization, they will perform better. That enhanced performance is what drives the business forward.

What advice would you give to other business leaders about how to manage a large team?

As a leader you must demonstrate inclusive behavior. You must create an environment of equity, meaning that you understand that people have different needs and that it is part of your job to provide them with the resources and tools they individually need to be better. You can manage your team “equally”, but you do not manage the individuals of the team the “same”.

Thank you for these excellent insights. We wish you continued success in your great work.


Corey Smith of LVMH, Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, On How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Entrepreneurship Degrees: Adlai Wertman’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

I wish I knew how much the world needed the best and the brightest to take on the hardest challenges. If society keeps measuring success solely by personal wealth, we will never attract the people we need to save the world. And unfortunately, the world needs saving.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Adlai Wertman.

Adlai Wertman is the David C. Bohnett Professor of Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business and the Academic Director of the school’s Master of Science in Social Entrepreneurship. He is also the founding Director of the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab at USC as well as and Director of the Warren Bennis Scholars programs. Before joining USC, Adlai spent seven years as CEO of Chrysalis — a Los Angeles social enterprise devoted to helping the homeless through employment. Prior to Chrysalis, Adlai spent 18 years as an investment banker. He earned his BA in economics from SUNY Stony Brook and his MBA in finance from The Wharton School.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

During my time at Chrysalis, I was blessed to be mentored by Dr. Warren Bennis — one of the premier leadership scholars in the world. (If you haven’t read his seminal book, On Becoming a Leader, buy it today!) Over the course of two and a half years, he asked me three questions. The first was: “What is the problem you want to work on?” I spent a full year thinking about it and stated that I was very concerned that not enough people who wanted to address social issues were studying business. He then asked me, “Why does that problem exist?” I spent another year doing research and told him, “Business schools are simply not equipped to train and support students who want to use their degrees for social impact.” And then he asked — I should have seen this coming — “So, Adlai, what are you going to do about it?” I wrote a ten-page proposal to start a social entrepreneurship center at a business school to support students and faculty who want to change the world. And here I am at the USC Marshall School of Business with a large social entrepreneurship center and a specialized master’s degree in social entrepreneurship.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Having spent nearly two decades as an investment banker and another decade running a homeless agency, I stepped foot on the campus of a major research university as a professor looking to start a first-of-its-kind social and student-focused center within USC’s Marshall School of Business. I quickly realized that my only experience at a university was as a student and that perspective was only one small viewpoint and not fully reflective of all that a university does. After raising the funds to open the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab, it still took me more than three years to figure out all that goes on at USC’s campus.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

While I have many, the one I have focused on most in the last 40 years is making decisions that move towards positive, not away from negative. I don’t let bad experiences be my guide. I try my best to make decisions based on what gets me be closer to my goals and mission, and not on running away from bad experiences or people that bring you down.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

An idea that could change the world would be bringing business skills and sustainable business models to the table that can provide a new approach to solving social challenges. The knee-jerk reaction to every issue is — let’s start a new non-profit and start raising donations. Yet, organizations constantly competing for the same pot of annual charitable gifts is just not sustainable. However, starting a business — which may be for-profit, or embedded in a non-profit — where you offer a valuable product or service to consumers is financially sustainable. We need to change the traditional non-profit mindset of reliance on donors. And we need to slightly shift the traditional for-profit entrepreneurship model from simply looking for market opportunities to starting with a social problem and finding a product or service that will address it. So, whether it is a non-profit starting a street cleaning business to provide transitional work opportunities for those who are long-term unemployed or designing electric cars to address the climate crisis — these types of business models can be very impactful. This goes way beyond running a traditional business that donates a nickel or pair of shoes when customers buy their products. This is an entirely new way of thinking about a business and a mission.

How do you think this will change the world?

To create and run these “social enterprises,” we need to first train and support a new breed of entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. Since social enterprises are still businesses that develop and sell products and services, we have to teach people the exact same skills as any other business school program. That is why we created our Master of Science in Social Entrepreneurship degree. We need a classroom space where we can teach students traditional accounting, finance, marketing, strategy, and entrepreneurship — but allow them to learn how to apply these skills in different areas, such as hunger, poverty, failing education systems and climate change. We also need to create a cohort of like-minded individuals to learn from and inspire each other.

Our Master of Science in Social Entrepreneurship brings together people from around the globe who will study business together and then go back home and address the problems that are impacting their communities. These are the folks who will truly change the world.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

We want leaders with integrity who are not looking to simply “greenwash” a traditional business, or use donations as a marketing tool, but who are truly focused on solving problems in a sustainable way. I am confident that our students, who have devoted their time and money to getting a graduate degree from a prestigious university, are the true world-changers.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

I was the CEO of an LA-based organization dedicated to creating a pathway to self-sufficiency for homeless and low-income individuals by providing the resources and support needed to find and retain employment. One day, I was at yet another large meeting with local leaders who were talking about how to end homelessness in LA. I looked around the table and wondered why I was the only one there who had studied business. I have always believed that heterogeneous groups make better decisions than homogeneous ones. While we had a socio-economically diverse group at the table, the diversity of analytical frameworks was basically reduced to two academic disciplines — social work and policy. I knew we needed way more than those two disciplines to solve these wicked problems — and the one discipline I knew was business. So, I decided to change careers to become a professor at USC to train and support students who wanted to use their business education to solve global social, environmental and health-access challenges.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

People need to know that learning business within the framework of social impact is a powerful option. We have found that our students always say the same thing when they apply to our master’s degree: “When I saw this program, I realized that this is just what I was waiting for.”

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.

As far as what I wish I knew before I started the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab and the MSSE program programs at USC:

  1. I wish I knew how complex a large university is. I remember thinking, “Hey, I worked for major investment banks — I understand large organizations.” But academia is a world unto itself.
  2. I wish I knew what everyone else’s jobs were. I remember asking my dean to explain his job. He told me that it was like being a football coach, except your own team (faculty) can tackle you!
  3. I wish I knew the USC Fight song before I showed up on campus. I studied in schools with no real “school spirit.” At USC — you will quickly learn how to say, “fight on!”
  4. I wish I knew that the Trojan Family is a real thing. I was in a student orientation at our Marshall School of Business where the students were told, “If you reach out to ten USC Trojan graduates through LinkedIn, nine will answer right away — and the tenth, send us their name.”
  5. I wish I knew how much the world needed the best and the brightest to take on the hardest challenges. If society keeps measuring success solely by personal wealth, we will never attract the people we need to save the world. And unfortunately, the world needs saving.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

  1. There is absolutely no replacement for hard work — none!
  2. Have personal goals — not just for your own personal career growth — but for what impact you want to make.
  3. Let those goals be your north star.
  4. When you are facing a big decision, go back to your goals and ask yourself, “Is this bringing me closer to meeting my goals? Does it align with my north star?” If it doesn’t, move on.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

VC’s need to realize that when an entrepreneur wants to make a social impact, they are not your traditional businessperson. They need to realize that these are dedicated individuals deeply vested in the success of their business because of both their social and their financial missions. Profit is a great motivator. But profit plus social impact is an even greater one.

I do need to add that many of these new businesses are being built by people who have traditionally been extremely under-represented in VC investments. This needs to change. And now!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/in/adlai-wertman-a46b5118/

Twitter — @AdlaiWertman

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Social Entrepreneurship Degrees: Adlai Wertman’s Big Idea That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Brand Makeovers: Liz Mosley On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and…

Brand Makeovers: Liz Mosley On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Go back to basics — Go back to your brand strategy. Are your brand values still the same or have they changed over time? What is your brand promise? Does it still inspire you and is it aligned with what you’re trying to do? Check-in with what you know about your target audience. Is it still an accurate picture of who is buying from you or working with you? When you are clear on those elements it can really help to remind you who your company is trying to help and what problem you are solving. Getting clarity on this can often be the boost you need to get even clearer on communicating what you are all about and also refresh the enthusiasm and passion for what you’re trying to do.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Liz Mosley.

Liz Mosley is a self-employed graphic designer who specializes in branding and animated GIFS for small businesses. She has taught over 400 people how to make their own GIF stickers for use on Instagram and her own GIFS have had over two billion views. She loves to bring fun and playful hand drawn elements into her designs, and is a cheerleader and supporter of all the small businesses she works with. To find out more about her work visit lizmosley.net

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was always creative as a kid and spent my days drawing and making. I would carry a little sketchbook with me everywhere — I always knew that I wanted to do a creative job and with supportive parents I never really doubted that’s what I would do. At school I really got into photography and spent hours in a dark room (basically a cupboard) developing photos. I was convinced I would be a photographer, but then I did a foundation art course — which is a year of trying lots of different creative disciplines before choosing to specialize at university. It was there that I was first properly introduced to Graphic Design and I fell in love with it . I think the thing I loved the most was it included lots of the creative disciplines I enjoyed — so even if I wasn’t doing them myself in design, I would still get to enjoy photography and printing, making and illustration. I’ve been doing Graphic Design ever since and I still love it as much as I did when I first discovered it 18 years ago.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing or branding mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One thing that has happened and is still a constant fear of mine is when something gets sent to print with a spelling mistake that makes a perfectly innocent word rude and isn’t what was intended. I used to work for a university and we were always quadruple checking all uses of the word annual in our annual reports to make sure one letter in particular wasn’t accidentally missing.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?

I think there have been two tipping points. For a while I was coasting in my career working for other people, but when I went freelance and started building my own business and brand it fueled an ambition that I hadn’t had before. Starting my own business actually coincided with me having children which was amazing because I could build a business that was flexible around my kids.

The second tipping point for me was after finishing my second maternity leave. I actually had two parts to my business, selling physical stationery products that I’d designed and design services. I realized that if I really wanted to make my business work, I needed to pick one and go for it 100%. I decided to pursue the design services side of my business and it was totally the right decision for me. I’m really enjoying the challenge of growing my business and helping other people with their branding.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I’m currently running the first round of a 12 week course called Design Your Own Branding. The goal is to help small business owners who aren’t currently able to invest in paying a professional to do their branding or who have lots of ideas and want to do it themselves. I’ve broken my creative process down into 12 manageable chunks to help the whole process of branding your own business feel less overwhelming. I’m enjoying teaching in this way so much and have had really great feedback from the students so far. I’m also currently working on Season 2 of my podcast Building your Brand. I’ve recorded some great interviews with small business owners and marketing experts that I think will really encourage and support other business owners in their branding and marketing journeys.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

My advice would be to be realistic about what you can achieve. There are so many different tools and platforms that we could be using to promote our businesses — but unless you have a huge team it can be hard to do them all anyway. Think about which areas will have the most impact, and that you enjoy the most, and focus your energy there instead of trying to do it all.

Also, build rest into your schedule. Literally schedule it in. It’s as important as any other task you do for your business but often it gets neglected because it feels like you’re not being productive. Having come close to burn out a few times recently — getting to that point means you aren’t going to be able to work on your business effectively anyway.

Ok, let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

Branding is how you make your business stand out from the crowd. It’s often considered as the visual elements of your business like your logo, colours, fonts and website — and while those are really important it’s deeper than that. It’s also your brand values, your brand promise, your tone of voice, even who your target audience is. Branding defines who you are as a business and is the aspect that will keep your customers loyal and coming back for more. Product marketing or advertising is where you’re telling people what you sell and how it can help them and make their lives better.

So simply put — marketing is how you get your customers or clients attention — and then branding is the tool to keep their attention and build brand trust and loyalty.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

Branding is so important because we live in such a visual culture. We were all told as kids not to judge a book by its cover but that’s what we’re doing all day long. With most of us spending so much time online we’re constantly encountering businesses selling us things. We have to make really quick decisions about whether each business we come across is of interest to us or right for us — or whether to move on and look for something else. These sorts of decisions are being made in milliseconds. So Branding is your tool to stand out from the crowd — and how your business looks and feels is your chance to draw people in — it helps communicate information about your business on a subconscious level.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

There are lots of reasons to consider a rebrand but probably the main two are if your branding is not communicating accurately or effectively what your company is about anymore or if your branding isn’t appealing to your target audience anymore. This could happen for a whole host of reasons, companies are always growing and changing over time — they’re not static. Maybe the direction of the business has changed over time or maybe the values and what’s important to the business has changed. When that happens I think a rebrand can be a great opportunity to get back on track and to start attracting the right clients and customers to your business. Rebranding can also be a brilliant opportunity for building hype and buzz around the business. It can be treated like a launch. You can tease your audience with behind the scenes snippets and mentally prepare them for the change that’s coming so they’re not confused or surprised. It’s also a chance to get across your brand story and explain again why it is you do what you do.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

Every time you rebrand you lose some of the brand familiarity and trust that you’ve built up. Your customers and clients need to get to know you again. They’re not necessarily having to start from scratch but they will be a little bit wary as they get to know the new look of your business. Sometimes a brand refresh — where you’re updating some of the elements rather than changing everything can be a good option. I think companies need to think carefully before they decide to rebrand to make sure that the reasons they are doing it are good ones. If it’s just that you’ve decided your bored of how it looks I would advise against it. If it is that it’s no longer accurately representing what your business is about or what’s important to you, or maybe you’re attracting the wrong clients then go for it. One thing I would say though is that you don’t want to be rebranding regularly. Every time you do it you will inevitably lose some of the trust and loyalty that you’ve built up with your customers or clients. If you’re changing the branding of your business every 6 months your company is going to come across as flaky, inconsistent or at worst untrustworthy — none of those are words you want to be associated with your brand.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share 5 strategies that a company can do to upgrade and re-energize their brand and image”? Please tell us a story or an example for each.

  1. Go back to basics — Go back to your brand strategy. Are your brand values still the same or have they changed over time? What is your brand promise? Does it still inspire you and is it aligned with what you’re trying to do? Check-in with what you know about your target audience. Is it still an accurate picture of who is buying from you or working with you? When you are clear on those elements it can really help to remind you who your company is trying to help and what problem you are solving. Getting clarity on this can often be the boost you need to get even clearer on communicating what you are all about and also refresh the enthusiasm and passion for what you’re trying to do.
  2. Involve your customers/clients — Customers love to feel involved and part of a community when it comes to business. How can you involve them and make them feel part of the team? Someone who does this brilliantly is Gemma from the business Mutha Hood. She does such a great job of sharing the behind the scenes of her business, the highs and lows. She uses Instagram stories to get her customers feedback and input as she designs new products and as a result her customers’ brand loyalty is really high. People buy from her business repeatedly. You can also see the impact that has by the number of customers who share her products on their own stories and create a lot of social proof for the business.
  3. Inject some fun and humour — How can you get across your brand’s personality? This is another opportunity to stand out from the crowd and help customers to choose you over another business. One of my favourite ways to do this is using animated GIF stickers on social media. Branded GIFS are brilliant for reinforcing your visual branding so that it’s familiar and recognizable but also to show the fun side of your business. What is brilliant about GIFS is that not only can you use them on Instagram and TikTok but your customers and clients can too. Are there any topics that you talk about regularly on social media? Or phrases that you use regularly that people associate with you and your business. Get a GIF made and use it as an opportunity to elevate your brand and make it more memorable.
  4. Try something new — Ever heard the phrase ‘a change is as good as a holiday’? Sometimes we get stuck doing the things we’ve always done and become boring and samey. Maybe it’s time to shake things up and try marketing your business in a new way? Maybe you start a podcast? Or make videos for TikTok — maybe sharing helpful tutorials or styling advice on YouTube could be the way to go. There’s something invigorating and inspiring about learning a new skill. All of these marketing tools are great ways to reinforce your brand and share your brand’s personality and potentially reach a whole new audience. They all have a design element to them, so you have a new means of getting your visual branding out there and making it even more recognizable. If audio or video isn’t your cup of tea maybe you could do an inspiring 5-day challenge for your email list, or a 30-day challenge with prompts on Instagram. There’s no one size fits all when it comes to branding and marketing, so choose to invest your time in areas that you enjoy and that will have a big impact.
  5. Make a small tweak — Sometimes you don’t need a whole rebrand to make your branding feel refreshed. It could be a case of just tweaking something. There are a few ways that you could do this. It could be introducing a new accent colour to your colour palette, or maybe a new font. It could be getting some new brand photography done — or maybe commissioning an illustrator to create some beautiful illustrations that sit well with your branding and can be used on your website or social media. Another absolute favourite of mine is Alice from lovedaysocial.com who makes incredible stop frame animations for Independent Brands. These are so fun and creative and can be brilliant for promoting particular products that you sell.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job doing a “Brand Makeover”. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

One of my favourite type designers of all time is Jessica Hische and she is often commissioned by big brands to give their logo a refresh and update. I love how she shares the process and to see the before and after. One that I really loved was the update she made to the Mailchimp logo. The style of the logo wasn’t changed at all and it still had the same feel, but you can see in the before and after stages how she made lots of improvements to how the letters were drawn out. I love how it revitalized the logo without changing it completely. I think this is a good example of how you don’t need to throw everything out and start from scratch with a total re-brand. You can actually take what you have and all the great elements of your branding and make it better. The great thing about an update is things won’t have changed so radically that it will confuse or throw off your existing customers.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

This probably wouldn’t be feasible and it is definitely not accessible to everyone, but I honestly think if people were encouraged to have therapy at some point in their life it would make a big impact. I know not all therapists are perfect but we all have things we struggle with in life and actually having someone help us to untangle past hurts and unhealthy beliefs so that we can heal and move forward is huge. I personally have benefited from therapy and running my own business. I have also realized how much it can help when you understand yourself better and how your brain works. I have recently really gotten into learning about enneagram too and finding out my number and all of the joys and challenges that go with that has helped me in so many areas of my life.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

It’s very well circulated and all over pinterest now but I really find the following quote helpful “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle” by Tim Hiller. I think with social media it’s easy to compare your business journey to everyone else’s out there — but I’m constantly having to remind myself that it’s not the full picture. I don’t know what they’ve gone through to get to where they are — but also they are on a different journey to me. There’s no point comparing where I am with where they are. It really is a hard one to remember but I try to keep that quote in mind when I’m scrolling Instagram or interacting with other businesses online.

How can our readers follow you online?

They can find me at my website lizmosley.net and sign up to my newsletter full of branding and small business tips — and find me on Instagram and Twitter @lizmmosley

Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.


Brand Makeovers: Liz Mosley On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Angela Bradford of World Financial Group: Five Ways To Develop More ‘Grit’

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

One of the first ways to develop grit that comes to mind is keeping the promises you say to yourself. For example, when you set your alarm and it goes off, do you get up? Or do you hit snooze? Continually breaking the promises to yourself will cause you to lose confidence. Without confidence the concept of having grit is very hard to embrace and emulate.

As a part of my series about “Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success” I had the pleasure of interviewing Angela Bradford.

Angela is a Senior Marketing Director with World Financial Group. Within five years of transitioning from the blue collar world of trucking and training horses, to the white collar world of finances and training people, she has opened multiple offices and started expansion into two countries. She has an amazing team working with her and has the goal of having a presence in every state and province in North America within the next 5–7 years.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path

I drove truck for many years until that industry began slowing down. This caused me to look for other opportunities and positions. I was introduced to World Financial Group then and I saw that I could get into a brand-new career with relatively little risk, so I thought, “Why not?” I decided to go for it, give it my best, and see…. I am incredibly grateful I made that decision and I have never looked back.

Can you share your story about “Grit and Success”? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

Oh for sure, I would love to! At first, most of my friends and family were not supportive of the change, so I needed to build a business in a “cold” market. That is the hardest for most people, and it sure was for me!

I was not a people person, so to go out and talk to strangers was a very scary thought. However, I as I had not given myself a Plan B where I could opt out, I had to go out and talk to people every day. This was challenging because, I had a lot of people say no to me and many others who tried to discourage me. Some days I would go home and cry because it seemed so tough.

Since I’d given myself only one option, I could only advance toward my goal. I kept going back out, day in and day out, and I got better and better at approaching people. Then one day out of nowhere, so it seemed, I had a business. To some people it seemed fast, but to me it seemed very slow. What kept me going was knowing if I did the same thing every day consistently, I would build something that I could be proud of.

If you are willing to do what others won’t do, you will have what others won’t have.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

This is a very good question. It is one that I’m not 100% sure I know the answer to. When I look back, I see a few things I feel have contributed to the desire to win and fight through the odds: one, growing up I saw my mom fight through incredible odds to raise my brother and I; two, this meant that I also had to work very hard as a child — hard compared to some anyway — to help us to be able to afford food and shelter.

Another thing I think that has helped to develop the drive to continue even in the hard times, is an inner fight to become my best. This desire is not something that just appeared out of nowhere; I have encouraged it to grow inside me. One way I do this is by reading and listening to good audio materials. Listening to others’ winning habits encourages me to develop my own.

The last source of my tenacity is my decision to surround myself with people who are fighters. I surround myself with people who want to win. I surround myself with people who are winning. When you surround yourself with people who are winning, they encourage you to reach higher. They also, by example, show you how to reach higher.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

Let me start with how I define ‘grit’. Grit is courage. It is also having strength of character, and the will to win no matter what challenges spring up. Grit has led to whatever success I have had so far because without it I would simply have quit. Grit is what gets me up in the morning when I want to just stay in bed. Grit is what makes me do the work I need to do when I don’t feel like it. Grit is essential to consistency and success.

Consistency helps people win in all areas of life. When you let your feelings determine your activity, more often than not, things will not get done. You cannot have consistency if you don’t have grit.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)

One of the first ways to develop grit that comes to mind is keeping the promises you say to yourself. For example, when you set your alarm and it goes off, do you get up? Or do you hit snooze? Continually breaking the promises to yourself will cause you to lose confidence. Without confidence the concept of having grit is very hard to embrace and emulate.

Another piece of advice on how to develop grit is to have a reason for developing it. I know this seems simple and easy, but I see a lot of people not actually knowing what they’re fighting for. If we don’t know what we’re fighting for, then why are we fighting? Once we figure out the why, the how follows. An example of this is getting up in the morning. When we have a big enough purpose, we don’t hit snooze very often. We are so excited about where we were going, it is hard to sleep.

The third thing that comes to mind to develop grit, is embracing the tough times. I was reminded about putting my dog down after 13 ½ years together. It was the hardest day of my life to be honest, but even as I was at the vet clinic, by myself and bawling, I KNEW that this was my way to into my new career path. I drove truck only two times after this. Things happen for a reason, even the tough things.

My fourth tip is to think about your associations. Who you hang out with will help shape your present and future life. What I mean by that is, if the people you hang out with the most aren’t encouraging you to be better and reach higher, then they are normally trying to slow you down. Be conscious of the voices around you and what they are saying. Adjust your group of friends if needed.

In order to build grit, the last tip I would like to share is to just make the DECISION to go all in. Develop a “whatever it takes” mentality. No matter what happens, be committed to your goals and dreams. Nothing can stop people who have decided that nothing will stop them. Things may slow them down for a time, but these no challenge can stop people who have committed 100% to achieving their dreams.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

This is so true. I would never be where I was at without the help and training and coaching of others. It is hard to think of just one person, as there have been many. But today I would love to thank Karen Stanley for some beautiful chats about not only being tough but being loving to myself in the toughness.

She has pointed out my strengths, while at the same time not letting me take it easy. In other words, in a very loving way, she calls me out when I need to be called out, and I am very grateful for our friendship!

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Using social media and public speaking, I have tried to help people focus on their mindset. If we change our minds, we change our lives. Giving back to charities and church is also important to me and my team. We want to be part of a movement of growth and personal development.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

At this moment I’m mainly working on creating leadership within my agency. By helping others become leaders more people will be reached. I can only personally help a limited number of people, but by helping create leaders, I believe we can reach thousands of people. It’s the ripple effect.

What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?

I would advise them to focus on the big picture and the vision rather than on the little things behind the scenes. It is easy to get weighed down in the details of life. I advise them to constantly talk about their vision and work with their core values to create a culture and movement of change and growth.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I want to create a movement to empower women to reach their full potential, so that they can become the very best versions of themselves in every aspect of their lives.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite life lesson quote is “life happens for us, not to us”. When I was diagnosed with MS, it was made very real to me that things come into our life not to stop us but to empower us. Challenges are not made to destroy us, but to make us stronger.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

They can find me on Instagram, and I would love to connect!

https://www.instagram.com/realangelabradford/

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Angela Bradford of World Financial Group: Five Ways To Develop More ‘Grit’ was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Vihan Patel of POM, Power of Music, On How Their Technological Innovation Will…

The Future Is Now: Vihan Patel of POM, Power of Music, On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Don’t always listen to those who love you: When I first told people I wanted to build this dating app and reject a job offer I had lined up, I was told not to do it by the people around me. Although I’m sure it came from a place of love, it is sometimes best to respectfully ignore their advice and follow your gut.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Vihan Patel.

One of the UK’s most exciting, up and coming young entrepreneurs, Vihan Patel is the 22 year old CEO and Co-Founder of POM (Power Of Music), the dating app for music lovers.

Born from a love for music and the fatigue of today’s superficial, gamified and impersonal dating apps, POM is a dating app that seeks to match users based on shared emotional responses to music, aiming to forge more meaningful connections. POM already has over 17,000 users signed up to it’s waiting list, and over 2,000 new people joining each week. POM goes beyond a traditional dating app offering real life experiences and actively encouraging their users to go on dates curated by POM. The first of which, the launch night for POM Presents: POM PARTIES, takes place on 5th of August at Night Tales, Hackney and features a DJ set from Shanti Celeste. Visit www.discoverpom.com for more information.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

POM was born after my time at university where I was your typical “club promoter” trying to sell tickets to all my friends. I soon realised that the so-called benefits of becoming a promoter were really not worth the toll it was taking on my relationships with my peers. After some consideration, I decided that it wouldn’t be too out of reach to start my own events company, so I rented a venue, hired a DJ and got the ball rolling! I used my experience as a promoter and some well placed ads to sell as many tickets as possible, low and behold the event sold out and prompted me to keep the momentum going.

Fast forward a few years and I was still using a similar model to hold events across the country, but this time with a difference. As the music changed I noticed that the attendees were different and their interactions with one another was different. The pandemic hit and I decided to move the model online — and POM was born.

I approached my now co-founder, Vlad, and we spent 10 weeks building and working on this project and, after a lot of outreach, secured 9 amazing investors.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

As you heard, the journey to POM was a long one and is still in its early stages, Building the platform through the COVID-19 pandemic has restricted the process a lot, however, one of the most interesting stories that has really stuck with me is the moment our lead investor agreed to fill the remainder of the round after only 3 hours of meeting us. We had to contain our excitement (and there was a lot of it to contain!) until we were clear of the meeting. I will never forget the calm walk back to the car, and the subsequent exclamation of pure joy that came from myself and Vlad! It really was the best feeling in the world to know that all the time spent in meetings and fine-tuning the project was worth it after all.

Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

POM uses people’s emotional response to music in order to match users. You login through your favourite music streaming platform (Spotify or Apple for example), and our algorithm does the rest. We paint an emotional profile of the users based on the music they listen to.

Data collected and analysed by the app includes the type of music a person listens to, when they listen to it, their emotional reaction to music and what this says about their character! Unlike a lot of the dating apps out there at the moment — all very focused on short term validation and connections — we’re using our tech to try and encourage users to forge more meaningful connections, hopefully that will last a lifetime!

How do you think this might change the world?

At POM, we believe that dating should involve more than just an initial reaction to a profile that has been tailored to please. Our aim is to change the world of dating and we truly believe that music is the way to do that. There is no hiding; your full music playlist is shared and your emotional responses are taken into account to curate the best dating experience, with the best outcomes. Through the ages music has been the common thing that has brought people together, it is all around us whether we notice it or not. After all, even your heart has a beat. For the most part it has the power to show how you feel when words can’t and if that doesn’t scream (or sing!) love, then I don’t know what does.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

I think people need to think more deeply about dating technology in general and the effect it is having on their relationships. Emotions are so private and personal that giving people access to them so freely without really knowing them is something to be cautious of. At POM we treat people’s emotional profiles like we would treat their bank details, they are strictly private and never shared with third parties. Who our users choose to share them with is completely their choice, we can only hope that it leads to a positive outcome.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Although POM has been in the works for a while in some form or another, I think my experience as an event host really opened my eyes to the effect that music can have on our ability to forge emotional connections. For the last event I hosted before the end of my degree I decided to run with a slightly different genre of music than I would usually; as soon as the first person walked through the door I could tell this would not be like any other event I’ve run before.

The attendees dressed differently, danced differently, interacted with each other differently and even drank different drinks. This is where I noticed that the music you listen to goes beyond just which artists you like, but more-so who you are as a person. As I watched attendees interacting with one another, I knew this was more than just a coincidence, it was something special.

Although many months followed this, planning and creating, more planning and more planning, this experience is something that i’ll never forget.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We still have a lot in the works for the future but up to now we have run multiple out of home advert campaigns that have been really successful. Our most prominent one to date was the “send playlists, not nudes” campaign that went out across London. That got some really great results and I think really focused on a problem that many users of other dating apps face, whilst really honing in on what POM is. We have also worked with some incredible upcoming music talent (such as Hope Tala, Holly Humberstone, Dyologue, Alfie and Lowertown). Our social media is creative, up to date, modern and designed to be inviting, educational and inclusive.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I think the most important person on this journey has been my Dad, he’s been the sounding board throughout this entire process. He’s inspired me to want to strive for running my own business and is the definition of ‘nothing comes without work’.

Internally, our lead investor, Alison, has been and continues to be amazing. From selling a business to one of the largest private equity firms in the world, to having one of her own businesses go public she really has done it all. She has opened hundreds of doors for us, stopped us from making quite a few mistakes but also has taught us many valuable lessons. There have been instances where she would spot a mistake or bad decision on the horizon but let us make it and subsequently learn from it. She knows that some things can only be learned after you’ve made the mistake. A truly incredible woman!

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Despite the success of POM so far, I think I’ve got a long way to go before I reach a point where I am successful enough to make a real difference in the world. However, my first paycheck went to my local Temple. It is so important to me to boost the local economy and look after those close to me.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each).

  1. Don’t always listen to those who love you: When I first told people I wanted to build this dating app and reject a job offer I had lined up, I was told not to do it by the people around me. Although I’m sure it came from a place of love, it is sometimes best to respectfully ignore their advice and follow your gut.
  2. Don’t hire your friends if you know they’re not good enough: I hired a friend who had an evident lack of skill and experience but wanted to believe that they would be up to the job. This ended very badly to say the least.
  3. You can’t do everything on your own: I always thought I could start, build, market and lead POM on my own. Boy was I wrong! Only once I brought on people 100x more experienced/qualified did I learn my lesson.
  4. Ask for forgiveness rather than permission: If you believe something, do it. Asking for forgiveness is a lot easier (pride aside) than the regret of not doing something because someone said no.
  5. Be selfish: Not everyone will understand why you can’t come out or meet up, or why you don’t have time to chat in the middle of the day. You’ve got to learn to be selfish and work hard towards your goals, even if it means you lose a few friends along the way. Those who stay are those worth having.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think that more opportunities to discover unconventional career paths at school would make such a refreshing change. The education system in the UK has been the same for a long time and I think that giving students the chance to explore new industries at a time when they can do it securely and with guidance would produce so many bright minds.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If you want the rainbow, you’ve got to put up with the rain” — When things get tough, that quote always comes back to me and reminds me that in order to get where you want to be (i.e the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow) the only way is to work hard and put up with the less pleasant parts of the process (endure the rain). You can’t cheat a rainbow, as there is no shortcut to success.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

POM harnesses the power of music, channelling it into an exciting inclusive app which delivers genuine, meaningful connections based on a shared love of the same music. In a dating scene dominated by swipe lefts and swipe rights, we like to do things differently. POM matches users based on their emotions. Using the emotional indicators embedded within users’ music taste, we have developed a first of it’s kind emotional detection algorithm.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@discoverpom on all social media.

@vihan.mvk

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

Thank you very much for having me.


The Future Is Now: Vihan Patel of POM, Power of Music, On How Their Technological Innovation Will… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Wisdom From The Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution, With Jillian Godsil of Blockleaders.io

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Blockchain technology excites me for many reasons. It is transformational and has the ability to really change things — for the better

As a part of my series about “Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Irish journalist and activist Jillian Godsil Jillian Godsil.

On international Women’s Day 2021, Jillian was nominated one of 100 global women in leadership awards in COVID reflecting the 30 plus years her career spans across a global stage including Sydney, Singapore, Kiev, Austin, Muscat, Columbo, Dubai, Capetown, Liberland, Malta, Amsterdam, Vienna, Dublin and London

In June 2020 she was awarded Blockchain Journalist of the year by Uptrennds (largest blockchain social platform). In 2019 she was nominated for the national Irish IMRO radio awards, made the top 100 Global Blockchain Leaders list by Lattice80 and was named AI and Blockchain Journalist of the Year at the CC Forum in London. In 2018 she was awarded the Order of Merit by the President of Liberland. She is a passionate advocate for blockchain, a seasoned professional in fintech and internationally recognised champion for equality — whether in homelessness, gender or the law.

She changed the law in Ireland in 2014 and is a former European Parliamentary candidate (as an independent).

She is a co-founder and editor in chief of Blockleaders.io. She is the author of more than 18 books.

Blockchain Advocate, Founder, Conference Chair, Women in Blockchain Advocate, Keynote Speaker, Award winning Crypto Journalist, Author, Award Nominated Broadcaster, CEO, Writer, Homelessness Advocate, Former European Parliament Candidate, Law Changer, Artist, Mother, Choir Member, Hill Walker, Dreamer

Thank you so much for doing this with us Jillian! Can you share with us the story of how you decided to pursue this career path?

I have always been a writer; I knew it was my calling from a very early age. Accordingly, I read History and English at Trinity College, Dublin — a degree course that I loved. I used to say of my time in Trinity that those four years were the best years of my life. Then as I was approaching my finals, I really was unsure of what I wanted to do next. Back in those days JP Morgan was a big recruiter in the college, and it was by chance that I decided to apply to work for them. I went through the options on the application form — sales and trading, way too scary, corporate finance, I’d no idea what that entailed and finally systems. I really had no idea what systems meant but I also felt I wasn’t expected to know either (this was back in 1987 when personal computers were only starting to come into popular use) and so I ticked that box.

I was offered the job and joined JP Morgan as a graduate systems analyst in London when my I completed my finals. I loved London, working for JP Morgan and the work environment. However, I wasn’t a very good programmer or indeed systems analyst. It took me three years to figure this out and so when I got offered an opportunity to move to Syndey Australia and start again, I grabbed my chance with two hands.

At this stage, I knew I loved writing, loved working with people and knew enough about technology to be dangerous. The obvious move was into fintech pr — or advanced technology as it was called then. I interviewed with a specialist fintech PR company and loved my new job — writing about technology rather than coding it. Three years later I moved to Singapore and stayed in this industry, becoming a director for a major American PR company, where I stayed for two years.

After ten years away I returned to Ireland with my husband and two children. I set up my own PR agency and was living a lovely life. We bought a big ruin in the country with plans to run it as a guest house.

But, in 2008 I hit divorce and recession. I could not cope with both.

There had a large mortgage on our country house (half the value of the house). With the divorce, my ex husband went back to the UK and went bankrupt, thereby giving the entire mortgage debt to my two girls and me.

In 2008 there was a hard crash happening in property prices. I tried to sell the house and made a video that went viral. I got a cash offer of €500,000 but the bank refused consent to sell as the mortgage was more. The bank preferred to repossess the home and sell it for €165,000 the following year. (It is now back on the market three years later at €550,000)

In the interim I became politicized. I lost my business and it collapsed, bailiffs called to the door and I lost everything. But I also became aware of the false narrative that began to take shape — “that people were gaming the system and messing with moral hazard”. There were also a rising number of financially inspired suicides. I got angry. I got very angry.

So I started ranting and raving at every opportunity — and I had a lot. This was around 2012 and most people were still being ‘shamed’ at failing financially. I went loud and proud and said that while it hurt a lot to lose everything that I had done nothing wrong and was not ashamed.

In the end, I was the first female bankrupt under the new insolvency laws in 2014. I was not allowed to run for public office under archaic Victorian law. I then took the Irish government to the High Court and all the way to the Supreme Court claiming that my constitutional rights were being infringed. I won.

Then I had to run — after all I had won the right.

So, I ran in the European Parliamentary elections in 2014 and while I did not win a seat I earned 11,500 votes.

This is where blockchain came in. I been through the ringer and was hung out to dry. I thought that life could offer me no more. I was at a standstill — or worse a personal recession.

https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/want-to-feel-invisible-try-hunting-for-a-job-at-50-31195113.html

Then I met blockchain in September 2017 and I said to myself — “Mama I’ve come home. Now is my time to shine.”

What lessons can others learn from your story?

Never give up. As Churchill famously said — when you’re going through hell, just keep going.

Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?

I am working on a project to provide privacy in DeFi — this is crucial as privacy is core to democratic society. This project is called Panther Protocol. I am also working on a faith based blockchain — Marhaba DeFi — as I believe it is important that everyone can have access to this transformational technology and finance. Another important project I am working on is Sonic Capital which is looking at how to invest in ESG projects through blockchain.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My children, who are now adult women, were and continue to be, the most influential people in my life. When times are tough and I feel like giving up, I look at them and know why I keep on going. Now they are adults I really enjoy their company and encouragement.

What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?

  1. It democratizes access to finance
  2. It democratizes access to education
  3. It democratizes access to payments
  4. It democratizes access to opportunity
  5. It democratizes access to income equality

Blockchain technology excites me for many reasons. It is transformational and has the ability to really change things — for the better

What are the 5 things worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?

I am not worried about blockchain and crypto itself. I don’t like the ponzi schemes that spring up in its wake — things like One Coin. And it’s not good to the rugpulls in the current anonymous DeFi market. These issues will be ironed out in time

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?

I use my voice — as a journalist, broadcaster, and author — to talk about injustice. I also use my platform to advocate for women in blockchain.

As you know there are not that many women in your industry. Can you share 3 things that you would you advise to other women in the blockchain space to thrive?

Get in

Show up

Stay in

Can you advise what is needed to engage more women into the blockchain industry?

What you can see, you can be. So if you work in blockchain, make sure you actively attract women to work and collaborate with you.

What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?

My mother would quote — ‘Ever onwards and upwards, maybe sideways but never backwards.’ And it is important to keep on going. Most things in life are not easy so you know that showing up is half the battle. The only point is that sometimes it can be hard to see how far you have come — take a moment to look back and then your journey will be apparent. Well done you!

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

As I said at the outset, I am writer — writing brings me much joy. I’d love people to join me on my platform Blockleaders.io and help tell more stories about this amazing space

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jilliangodsil/

https://twitter.com/jilliangodsil

https://persons-of-interest.io/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Wisdom From The Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution, With Jillian Godsil of Blockleaders.io was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Rising Through Resilience: Elizabeth Power of The Trauma Informed Academy On The Five Things You…

Rising Through Resilience: Elizabeth Power of The Trauma Informed Academy On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Recognize that you can learn to bend, flex, and recover. It is possible to learn the dance others seem to know. If you don’t know the steps, you can’t even practice. When you do, practice. Practice a lot. I win gold medals for persistence, even if only in my own race.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Elizabeth Power.

Elizabeth Power, MEd (and not the British Romance Novelist with the same name!) is an international authority on trauma-informed care, resilience, and self-care. Based in Nashville, Tennessee, she is the founder of The Trauma Informed Academy and the author of Healer: Reducing Crises. She’s an avid gardener, educator, and consultant whose work is helping people reduce the time, trauma, and costs of healing.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

I grew up in the “edge of Appalachia” — the last county on the area’s east side. My growing up was made difficult by ordinary things. These were ordinary in the world of men returning from the way — events like relocation, death, rare diseases, congenital disabilities, and more. However, I also learned to think critically, read broadly, and respond to change quickly. These were gifts.

In my teens, I left. I’d had enough. I ended up at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts for my last two years of high school. From there, I went on to take seven years to earn a four-year degree. I was still having knee surgeries (this was in the dark ages) almost every year. After burning every bridge I had in North Carolina, I came west to Tennessee. I began my career in custom shoe repair at a shop that did a lot of work in the music industry and Nashville’s glitterati. The rest was just pinballing from spot to spot until I found my “calling” in adult learning and instructional design. My specialty is helping people become trauma-responsive. I’m an adjunct instructor in psychiatry at Georgetown and the founder of one of the country’s fastest-growing online academies helping people become trauma-informed and trauma-responsive.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

Wow. There are so many! In my years as a shoe repairer, I worked on the shoes of the stars — Oprah Winfrey when she was in Nashville, Minnie Pearl, Alabama, and more. I was repairing the handle on Minnie Pearl’s pearlized blue makeup case — the rivet had popped. She watched and said to me that while I was a “fine shoe repairer,” she hoped I’d go on to do more, but to “always remember where you came from.”

I learned that I wasn’t as invisible as I wanted to be. Minnie Pearl saw me despite my efforts to hide. I saw that people in high places could still see the rest of us and be kind. She exuded humility and compassion. Her compliment was a spark of hope that I tucked inside and carried even today.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The combination of “Lived Experience” with a robust commitment to competency-based adult learning.

As a person with an extensive history of trauma, I know the work of healing from the inside out. As a degreed adult learning specialist whose designs using evidence from research in learning, I know we need learning grounded in what we know about people learn. And, I know that a lot of the troubles each of us have are over things we did or didn’t learn.

Combining these allows me to focus on learning people might miss and deliver it in a helpful way that works.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Alma Clayton-Petersen. She jumps right out. Alma was a Dean at Vanderbilt’s Peabody School of Education. I’d worked with her on a tool called “Diversity Opportunity Training,” which was a laser-disc-based training that took students through different scenarios where diversity and inclusion mattered. I slunk into her office to talk about graduate school and told her I didn’t think my publishing list was long enough to count. I was convinced I was too stupid to get into graduate school!

She pushed her big, bright red glasses down on her nose. She looked out over them at me and said (as I remember), “Girlfriend, don’t nobody come to graduate school with a publications list.” I was stunned. I thought you couldn’t get in if you didn’t have one! I realized the lie I’d been telling myself about how dumb I was? They couldn’t hold up. It was the first time it occurred to me that I might be able to go to graduate school. I felt so dumb! I was very addicted to being a failure back then.

I’ve worked on eroding that self-contempt ever since. It truly is an “inside job.”

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

I believe resilience is a trait that we develop. It helps us focus on or promote our positive assets while reducing the risks our negative assets bring. This activity increases our ability to take in and respond to everyday discomforts and distress with less risk of trauma.

Traits of resilient people align with the traits of Emotional Intelligence, like self-awareness and self-regulation. They include traits like

  • adopting and learning to sustain optimism;
  • reframing, or making multiple meanings of events;
  • getting and staying curious;
  • being able to dial-up or down the intensity of emotions;
  • turning outward to include “we” as well as “me,” and
  • sufficient belief in self-as-worthy to protect and care for the self. You know, loving yourself the way you tell other people to love themselves.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Jean Baker-Miller, MD, is always one of my top-of-mind examples. She was a Jewish doctor, a psychiatrist, and a polio survivor. Her work reframed psychological thinking from problems with how we separate to challenges in how we change connection. She walked her talk as an early feminist, and despite all the constraints against her being who she was, she prevailed. She prevailed by refocusing and building a bigger table. She was always making meaning, connecting, and focusing on contributions to the betterment of the world. I considered myself very lucky to have known her.

I chose her because she lived around the impediment of polio and its impact on her life. She still did what she wanted to do, constantly and forever adapting to how her body worked. She focused on bringing us together instead of driving us apart. She made a huge contribution to our world. The work she started continues.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

I’ve heard that more than once. When the orthopedic surgeon who removed my last kneecap (two different docs) told me to forget ever driving a straight drive, kneeling, picking up packages? And when he went on to say to me to expect that my knees would pitch me forward to fall flat on my face? I smiled.

I was so mad I hiked on crutches that year. I learned to drive a VW Bug in a straight leg plaster cast from thigh to ankle. After I got out of the cast, I did fall when my knees buckled. I developed ways to avoid that. I kneel, climb stairs, pick up boxes — and work to keep my body in shape to support that. To people who don’t know that journey, I look as if I have never had knee problems. Impossible only takes longer.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

I think the story I’ve told is rooted in a lot of trauma, especially in early childhood. I knew I’d developed PTSD (I think I was diagnosed as soon as it hit the books) by 1980.

What I didn’t know was that I’d also developed what is now called Dissociative Identity Disorder. I felt like my world had crumbled within about five minutes of hearing that I had “multiple personalities.” One minute you’re a successful instructional designer, and the next, what are you? Who are you? What happens to people like me? What do I do now? Does it mean I’m crazy? Or what?

I chose a nontraditional path to healing. I refused to believe what people said about me. I knew my proliferation started with the ordinary early losses that made me vulnerable to other kinds of trauma. I knew they represented points at which I couldn’t learn because I was overwhelmed.

It was the hardest work I’d ever done. I had so much to learn! I was like a big piece of Swiss cheese, with all kinds of holes. I created some new ideas about dissociation that people still talk about now. Unraveling and reweaving still seems the best example.

And, I was determined that my story would be my narrative and not someone else’s. I refused to “accept the defining gaze of the Other.” I was self-determining. I grew more than I can imagine. I became more successful as a result of the creativity, compassion, and adaptability I fostered. (It was challenging, and it seemed better than the alternative.)

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

I think growing up with physical disabilities helped me develop resilience. My mother told me I could do anything I wanted to, even if I had to do it differently. So I was steeped in adapting, reframing, and finding alternative ways to get things done. Dissociation helped me avoid experiencing overwhelming things, or at least the bodily sensations and emotions that came with them. Learning how other people experienced the world was powerful. In those years, I realized that the real power I had was in the choices I could make.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

Step #1. Recognize that you can learn to bend, flex, and recover. It is possible to learn the dance others seem to know. If you don’t know the steps, you can’t even practice. When you do, practice. Practice a lot. I win gold medals for persistence, even if only in my own race.

Step #2. Recognize that self-care is things you do to care for yourself, like massage and mani-pedicures. Do you want to amplify them to bolster your resilience? You’ll need Step #3. I cannot tell you how many times I had lunch with friends and it was just lunch with friends. But when I learned what’s next? They became a lot more.

Step #3. Use a pattern to help you add meaning to your actions, especially those that are for self-care. I think of it as building a trampoline I can bounce off of — my favorite four posts that hold up the trampoline are connection, contribution, competency, character.

Ask — of each action you take — What connection am I strengthening? To whom or what? What contribution does this action make to the world? Do I have the skills or competence to do this? Does it align with my character? It doesn’t take long when you practice it, and your actions become a lot clearer. That mani-pedi I need? Maybe I have a favorite salon with a person. There’s connection and contribution. And I’ll take a friend with me, which strengthens connections. I know the salon’s address and the person I want — that’s competence. It’s like me, within my character, to do this.

Step #4. List times in your life when you have been bent over by life and stood back up. Describe what you learned in each one. What gifts did it bring you? Growing up with a physical disability helped me learn how to adapt and be creative. It helped me develop ways of thinking that are helpful in terms of accommodations, new ideas, and blending different ideas. Being diagnosed with DID helped me explore the realms of human consciousness and what it meant to be “me.”

Step #5. Install the good regularly. Personal neuroplasticity is critical in growth and healing, and you can use it to your advantage. Before you go to sleep, think about something good that has happened. Feel the feeling it brings, and turn that feeling up for twenty seconds. Rinse, lather, and repeat — three different moments of good from each day, 20 seconds each. That’s only a minute. Keep it up. I worked on a version of this, recognizing a moment where I looked in the mirror and thought I was beautiful. I worked that one for six months, and when I went home, my family didn’t recognize me.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’d love to implement a program that combines learning, practice, and loyalty rewards for demonstrated skills that helps people become trauma-responsive. It would serve at least one million people. Every little bit we absorb about creating hopeful and healing environments is an investment in reducing the pain in the future. It’s a legacy to leave the future that reduces overwhelming experiences and the cost of recovering from them.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

I’d love to visit with Michelle Obama.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Our website is https://elizabethpower.com , and all our social media links are at https://linktr.ee/EPower.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Rising Through Resilience: Elizabeth Power of The Trauma Informed Academy On The Five Things You… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: William Morriss of IP Toolworks On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake…

The Future Is Now: William Morriss of IP Toolworks On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Know your niche. Our product is built around a very specific user and application, so you could say that we began with a niche already in mind. Even then, we found that a lot of work was needed to get to understand the concerns of all of the players involved through the buying cycle and afterwards as users. Investing in these relationships isn’t always easy, but it was one of the best things we did.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing William Morriss.

William Morriss has spent the last fifteen years helping clients, from startups to Fortune 500 companies navigate complex issues surrounding law and technology and obtain protection for their inventions. He is a passionate advocate for the value of patents in business, having seen the impact in the success of his clients and his own work as an entrepreneur. William is Senior Technology Advisor at IP Toolworks, a company which he founded with the goal of helping attorneys respond to rejections from the USPTO more effectively by leveraging a wealth of publicly available but previously inaccessible information.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Growing up, I always knew that I wanted to be some kind of lawyer. It just seemed to fit me. I also loved programming and got my undergraduate degree in computer science. I graduated in 2002, right after the tech bubble burst, so going into patent law, rather than pursuing work as a developer, seemed like a clear way to go. As far as founding a legal tech company, IP Toolworks, that is something that came out of my experience being a patent attorney, and observing the kinds of pain points I and my colleagues were facing. I was inspired to use the problem solving skills I had developed as a programmer to address the inefficiencies I saw in how people interacted with the patent office in a different way.

Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

At the moment, we are working on an NLP (Natural Language Processing) based system to better understand both the kinds of arguments the government relies on when rejecting patent applications and the specific types of arguments and doctrines attorneys cite when they negotiate to get patents allowed.

As it stands, the process of getting a patent is highly technical and complex, which can prove particularly prohibitive for smaller inventors who stand to benefit most from protection. This is because patent attorneys must go through college to get a technical degree, before they go to law school. Then, in order to be any good, they have to go through years of experiential learning. The cost of doing all this is of course tremendous. It means that a law firm has to hire someone who is simultaneously a lawyer, a technologist, and an experienced negotiator. By streamlining this process using natural language processing and artificial intelligence, I believe we can significantly reduce the cost of protecting innovation. This, in turn, can make it much easier for people to bring their technologies to market, get investments and realize these new technologies.

How do you think this might change the world?

Increasing access to technical know-how through AI that would ordinarily take human intelligence years to develop, is revolutionary, especially for people hungry to innovate and make a difference. It can help eliminate some barriers to access for inventors and reduce constraints on attorneys, so that someone with less experience, or who happens to be working at a small firm can be confident that what they are preparing is of the same caliber as that of top tier performers.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

There were two experiences in my professional career that inspired me to build this software. One was discovering just how hard it was to convey information on patent prosecution to new attorneys I was training. The other was something I could describe as a happy accident that led me to truly appreciate the value of all this knowledge contained in historical patent prosecution documents, that is typically locked away:

This second discovery goes back to a time when I was working on a litigation case. As part of the litigation process, attorneys are responsible for reading through all the negotiations on the patent that’s being litigated. One of the arguments that the patent attorney in this case had made happened to be one I had never heard before. I thought it was a really good argument, so I made a note of it, and subsequently used it in my own practice. A little later one of my colleagues asked if I had an argument to accomplish a particular objective, and I did; it just so happened that it was the same argument that I had read in that litigation.

It made me realize just how much knowledge is out there that would normally be beyond the scope of my own experience and that of my immediate network. The Arguminer software changes that; instead of discovering new arguments by luck, you are able to use our tool to search for them in a comprehensive, systematic way.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

To begin with, I think people need to be aware of it. Beyond that, we have to address the fact that there is a basic human reluctance towards change, and that this is often more entrenched in institutions like law firms that are the primary purchasers of our software. We tend to think of technology law as on the cutting edge, but much of law is, after all, about finding ways of accounting for new developments within codified systems that are already established. To get into the system, in our case, tends to require working through bureaucratic layers and a certain amount of patience while our potential users build new habits and develop trust that innovations like ours can enhance their practice, rather than posing a threat to what they are already doing that is working.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We recently began working with a marketing agency. Our campaigns with them have focused on providing actionable content that can help patent lawyers level-up their prosecution practice. So far, we are seeing some good results. It is exciting to finally transition to more of an in-bound model where we have people coming to us, asking for product demos, rather than us reaching out to them.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have been fortunate to have had access to some incredible training and mentorship opportunities while we were getting IP Toolworks off the ground. We began by working through business plan competitions and launch programs at Xavier University and the University of Dayton, where we received a solid education in the ingredients needed to start a business. People within my network, and within the startup community here in Cincinnati, many of whom I help with patents for their companies or portfolios, have been incredibly generous in sharing their time and experience with me when it was my turn to launch.

Beyond this, I am grateful to my partner and cofounder, Yvonne [Morriss]. The company wouldn’t exist without her. Not only was she the one responsible for creating the commercial framework and doing a great deal of the legwork to take us from a product to a business, but her commitment and vision is the reason we exist today. We went through some dark times just before we got our first signed contracts with some major law firms, when I was about ready to pull the plug. Her confidence in the technology, and in the value of what we are trying to achieve, is what pulled us through.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I do pro bono work both as an injury attorney, and in assisting companies with intellectual property and technology policies. I’ve helped a company that does research for a particular orphan disease with their research agreements. I’ve helped nonprofits implement technology policies that allow them to structure how they provide access to basic human needs like cell phones.

As an attorney, I think of my role as a kind of enabler. By sharing the knowledge and expertise that I have amassed through my training and years of practice, I am in a position to enable others to improve the world through their own efforts. These are people who already are doing tremendous things, but who, without this kind of support, might otherwise have their impact limited by obstacles they encounter. This is not so different from what our software does. It provides access to knowledge that can enable other people to more effectively protect, and commercialize valuable innovations.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.

  1. The difference between someone telling you they would buy your product, and them actually paying money for it is night and day. Actually many people told me this before I started, but it is the kind of thing you can’t fully appreciate until you have spent all of this time developing the tech and building validation pre-launch, only to find that when it’s time to actually commercialize, you’ve hit a wall.
  2. Some things take time. We happen to be in an industry with a very long buying cycle. The time from initial engagement to closing our first sale was well over a year. There is so much emphasis on failing fast. I completely get the wisdom behind not wanting to pour more and more resources into a sinking ship, particularly when big investment is involved. For us, we took an alternative approach, which gave us the chance to make it to the finish line. Long and lean can be a viable model too.
  3. Be very sure you have your video conferencing platform in good order. We botched a couple promising calls early on due to technical issues with our conferencing platform, which I remember being hugely disappointing at the time. We bounced around to a few different platforms after that, and ended up on the free tier of Zoom, since their performance was so solid, and we were trying to run lean. The only downside was that they cut you off after forty minutes. Our typical demo runs thirty minutes, so this seemed fine. Then one day, we were on a call that wasn’t wrapping up when we expected. My co-founder was on the other end entering our credit card details with minutes to spare. I can’t believe it actually worked! We were so fortunate that it did, as they turned out to become one of our best customers.
  4. Marketing can be transformative. As a technologist, I can have a groundbreaking idea and go ahead and build it, but the tech won’t be able to achieve what it is meant to, if it is not marketed and promoted. This is something I wish I had appreciated earlier in our own ramping up process, as I think it would have generated more positive momentum. The last six months working with our marketing agency, Concurate, has shifted our model in a very positive direction. Now we have people saying, “Hey, we want this. We want to demo.” They’re reaching out to me, which means they are already engaged. That sets the stage for better success.
  5. Know your niche. Our product is built around a very specific user and application, so you could say that we began with a niche already in mind. Even then, we found that a lot of work was needed to get to understand the concerns of all of the players involved through the buying cycle and afterwards as users. Investing in these relationships isn’t always easy, but it was one of the best things we did.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

It would be a movement to deemphasize and distribute power and resources away from the so-called leaders of things. I’m one of two cofounders of IP Toolworks, but as the inventor of our core technology I am the one who tends to be presented as the face of our company. My industry experience and technical background were certainly essential, but so too were the contributions of my cofounder, which I mentioned earlier, as were efforts of our exceptionally talented developers at GreyB. The cult of genius is an idea that came about in the nineteenth century. There is something very romantic about this way of thinking, but it is problematic, in that it disproportionately rewards and valorizes certain kinds of contributions over others, which I don’t believe is particularly healthy for society. More than that, it is unrealistic, in that it doesn’t reflect the kinds of work that go on behind the scenes to support great or innovative things actually getting done.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Never play to win a pawn while your development is yet unfinished.”

  • Aron Nimzowitsch

Simply put, you must first prepare, then execute. In chess, impulsive or inexperienced players are tempted to go after their opponent’s pawns before they have finished readying their own pieces on the board. Certainly these little pieces on the frontlines are nice to have, but they can cost you.

When we first launched we spent some resources going after what we thought looked like easy sales with small firms. The appointments were easy to book, but the sales consistently failed to materialize. We stopped and went back to the drawing board, where we discovered that focusing on larger prospects actually resulted in a more solid product-market fit. In life, as in chess, development means taking the time to move out your pieces in the right order so that you can maneuver properly. When the time is right, you will be in a much stronger position to attack and win.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Whether it takes the form of a major disruptor or an incremental improvement, innovation is the gold standard that successful ventures are built upon. Yet without patents to protect that innovation, companies are in danger of losing that edge. So much work goes into due diligence and mentoring to foster the best possible teams to develop and commercialize using data and insight drawn from past experience. Yet, when it comes to negotiating with the government to obtain the patent, matters are handed off to an attorney and it’s put in a black box. We open that black box, giving patent seekers the best possible chances of success based on what has worked before .

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn — William Morriss

Twitter- @theSid2011

YouTube — IP Toolworks

Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.


The Future Is Now: William Morriss of IP Toolworks On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Neill Ricketts of Versarien On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: Neill Ricketts of Versarien On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Build a plan for yourself around what makes you happy. So many of us are not happy and put up with it instead of taking control and changing our lives. Being happy is not an accident, it is something you must consciously take steps to achieve. Life goes by quickly and it is far too easy to spend most of it unhappy.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Neill Ricketts.

Neill is the CEO and founding director of Versarien. Neill was responsible for driving Versarien’s growth from two men in a garage in 2011, to a team of 100 employees within four years.

As a graduate engineer, with 20 years of senior-level experience in manufacturing and engineering companies, Neill brings to his position a wealth of knowledge and insight. He has demonstrated success in introducing and commercializing new technology, including new materials and coatings for diverse sectors from aerospace to Formula One, including significant work in the oil and gas sector

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I started my career on the engineer side of the business as an apprentice and spent a number of years working with and leading teams of engineers. Most of my career I was working and making money for other people and always thought I could do it better myself, so I decided to start my own business.

I ultimately failed the first time, and went back to work in the industry, but what I learnt from my failure about how to start and run a company was invaluable. When we started Versarien PLC, I knew a lot more about raising money and how to maintain momentum and vision through the inevitable obstacles that are put in front of you. Even though I no longer work as an engineer, the logical skills I developed in that role put me in good stead when setting up Versarien. Those skills have been an integral part of enabling me to recognize the possibilities and opportunities graphene presents when others perhaps can’t.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I’ve been fortunate to have had a colourful career based around introducing technology to new sectors. I was proud of being able to meet David Cameron and Theresa May on various occasions. I even accompanied Theresa May on a trade mission to China in 2018 and was honoured to represent Versarien and British business on such an elevated level.

Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Graphene has been written about for a few years now and its impact on industries like electronics are well publicized. What excites me most, though, is the significant environmental boost graphene can bring to everyday products. I’m a passionate diver and see first-hand the destruction we are subjugating the natural world too.

Concrete is the second most popular man-made substance on earth, but cement production is responsible for up to 8 percent of C02 emissions globally. By enhancing concrete with graphene, around 30% less cement is needed in production. This makes the concrete production process a lot less energy intensive, but the end product is just as strong. We recently partnered with Nationwide Engineering and the University of Manchester, to lay the world’s first graphene enhanced concrete a few miles away from Stonehenge. The results we have seen are remarkable, and we believe that graphene enhanced concrete can contribute significantly to meeting emissions targets.

How do you think this might change the world?

There is not an area of society that will not be affected by the capabilities of graphene. As well as environmental there are healthcare implications for technology. The light and flexible nature of graphene, coupled with its incredible conduction properties means you can seamlessly add graphene technology into any piece of clothing. In ten years, we could see, instead of heart monitors and blood pressure tests, graphene enhanced hospital gowns providing real-time updates to nurses of a patient’s vital statistics in real time. There is a fourth industrial revolution going on, driven by the Internet of Things and automatic machine-to-machine communication, and graphene has an especially vital role to play in this.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

With the pandemic changing the ways we interact it is important that anyone working in innovative tech learns from the good and bad experiences of the last 18 months.

Human interaction is vital to all aspects of business, and I have seen the issues that come when that contact is taken away. In normal circumstances I’m a natural networker. I love connecting with people, finding out their goals and seeing how we can work together and making friends. Working from home and connecting via zoom, is not my preferred approach to work. While it’s incredible we have managed to keep going as a society despite lockdowns, it’s taught me the possibilities and limits of our technology. As we continuously move forward with technology, people in tech must ensure we do not eradicate the human aspect in favour of progress and continue to find ways to keep both.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Yes, there was. As a CEO, you have that four-to-five-year vision most other people do not have. Looking ahead, you can see what the world looks like for your business and a big part of your job is to take people with you to realise that vision. We first hedged our bets on graphene in 2014 and it was not until a few years later when we launched our first product, a watch, that the technology stopped being a collection of test results and became a fully realised object. That to me was the tipping point that made me realise what Versarien could really do with graphene.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

We need a push from all directions, public and private, to ensure that we do not continue down a path of destruction. The pandemic has been a tragedy, but many have pointed out the opportunity it presents for us to do things in a different and more sustainable way. In the past, it took devastating world wars for technology to take a leap.

Consumers want faster, better, and more sustainable products, from textiles to electronics. Graphene can give us that and so much more. Graphene is a futuristic technology, but it is here now, helping to solve some of the planet’s biggest problems. If big global entities realise the possibilities of graphene, the sky is the limit for its adoption.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

I’ve always found that you can’t be disruptive in one area. A truly innovative and disruptive business is creative in all areas. With this in mind, we have done some slightly left field things in the past, including engaging with Snoop Dogg to promote some of our products. We’re always looking at the slightly unusual and unexpected as inspiration when telling people about Versarien and graphene.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

You cannot achieve success without people helping along the way. I’ve been unbelievably lucky during my career to have worked with and for some amazing people who taught me a lot. Years ago, I interviewed with John Deer at Renishaw and his views shaped a lot of my thoughts at the start of my career about what I wanted and how to get there. Starting Versarien has allowed me to hire and work with some of the finest people of my whole career. Still, not a day goes by where I don’t learn something new and I’m incredibly lucky to have that.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

The work we do at Versarien is about using the best technology to help solve some of the biggest issues the world faces. I’ve always found that there is no joy in success if you don’t give something back, and I’ve always been a better giver than receiver. I opened Versarien in the West Country of the UK, where I’m from, because I want to give back and provide jobs to my local community.

I helped fund a steam lab at my old school and we work with a lot of charities around local and national issues. I think successful people can sometimes lose sight of the people and places that created them. It’s important to me that I don’t lose that, so I keep that connection alive with Versarien and the work we do.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Don’t put off what you want to do. If I was to have my time over again, I’d say to myself get on with it and do it.

We create our own constraints. I went to a regular comprehensive and the career advisors said I had one of three jobs I was ever going to do. I ignored them, backed myself and have achieved more than I could have imagined back then. People need to challenge institutionalized views; you know yourself better than anyone else.

Build a plan for yourself around what makes you happy. So many of us are not happy and put up with it instead of taking control and changing our lives. Being happy is not an accident, it is something you must consciously take steps to achieve. Life goes by quickly and it is far too easy to spend most of it unhappy.

Believe in yourself, back yourself and keep going. It took me twenty years to do what I really wanted, and I kick myself for all the years of self-doubt that stopped me from doing it sooner. You’re far more capable and resilient than you think you are, and failure is far better than regret.

Stay healthy and keep the people you care about around you. Making money and having a successful career is fantastic but pointless if your health fails you or you are alone. It does not matter who it is, but people are what get us through life.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I were to inspire a movement it would be to encourage people to achieve their passions and goals. Versarien work with a lot of schools and universities talking to pupils and students about their goals and what drives them. My dad is 72 and wanted to be a marine biologist his whole life and never did it. He still regrets that, and I don’t want anyone to feel that way because they didn’t believe in themselves or were too scared to fail. Taking away the stigma of failure is one of the biggest lessons I hold myself and my kids to.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Muhammed Ali — ‘He who is not courageous enough to take risks in life will achieve nothing in life.’

Taking risks is what life is all about, because when you fail you learn and there is nothing in the world like succeeding at your biggest and toughest goals. Ali was someone who had enormous challenges in his life and rose to all of them, from racism and being banned from boxing over Vietnam, to his battle with Parkinson’s. I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from him this quote to remind me to take risks and keep going if I fail.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

The opportunity Versarien and graphene present to change society is enormous. Faster, lighter, and more flexible tech in a sustainable and tough material. Concrete, textiles, aerospace, and consumer electronics are all being transformed by graphene. There is no price tag on what we are going to achieve over the next few years and getting on board means joining with the future.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I am on Twitter @neillricketts or @CEOVRS1

Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.


The Future Is Now: Neill Ricketts of Versarien On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Dr. Isha Metzger of EMPOWER Lab: 5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our…

Dr. Isha Metzger of EMPOWER Lab: 5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Pace your passion and stay in your lane! Healing the country of racism sounds like such a daunting task, so I think it’s important to know that we can all do a small part. Once you’ve made yourself accessible, gotten ingrained in the community, educated yourself, and gotten comfortable having difficult conversations, it is likely that you’re going to be fired up and ready to do EVERYTHING that you can to make the world a better place. I think it’s important to remember that we all have roles to play and to pace ourselves so that we can stay focused on doing our job well. Resting and unplugging when necessary is critically important to restoring your energy so that you are able to continue the work that is so important.

As part of our series about 5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country, I had the pleasure of interviewing Isha W. Metzger, PhD.

Dr. Isha Metzger is a first generation American from Atlanta, Georgia by way of Sierra Leone, West Africa. She is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Director of The EMPOWER Lab, and Owner of Cultural Concepts Consulting, LLC.

The overarching goal of Dr. Metzger’s career is to take a strengths based, anti-deficit approach to prevention for youth of color. Dr. Metzger stands against anti-Black racism and oppression through “”Engaging Minorities in Prevention, Outreach, Wellness, Education, & Research” through community-based participatory methods and advocacy. Both personally and professionally, Dr. Metzger is heavily invested in mentoring and training the next generation of community based prevention scientists.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I grew up in College Park, Georgia, the youngest of a huge family in a household that was constantly filled with music, rich foods, culture, laughter, and love. My early upbringing as a first generation American from Sierra Leone, West Africa provided me opportunities to appreciate speaking both English and Krio, eating both pizza and pounded yams, singing to Beyonce and dancing to Soukous, and experiencing the richness of both urban and traditional cultures

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I remember being so impacted by “A Child Called It” that I read it several times throughout the years. It’s a novel about a boy who was ruthlessly physically and emotionally abused by his mom. I think this book stood out to me because up until reading this book, I had only heard of the Civil War back home as a stressor that children were experiencing. Once I realized it was the survivor telling his own story, it made real the long term harmful effects of child abuse and the potential benefit of advocates, mental health professionals, and supportive adults in the community. I guess I thought of the United States as a problem free zone and it wasn’t until reading this book that I realized there were kids here who needed help as well.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

The quote, or scripture, that is most relevant to my life and my work is “Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:13–16 is a Biblical scripture, but it’s a quote that is a constant reminder for me to be intentional about what my work seeks to achieve and how it serves my larger purpose in life.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

For me, leadership is really ‘leading by example,’ so it’s important for me to do the work and then to bring people in who are also willing and able to do the work with me, not for me. It’s an important distinction that allows us all to take ownership and responsibility over our own work as we move towards our collective goal. To be the leader just means I was doing it first, or that I am the glue that connects us all, but in the community-based research, prevention, and outreach efforts that I lead, we are all doing the same work.

In life we come across many people, some who inspire us, some who change us and some who make us better people. Is there a person or people who have helped you get to where you are today? Can you share a story?

I typically answer this question by talking about my father, mother, grandparents, an influential client, or one of my mentors. Today, I’m compelled to answer that my faith in God and my relationship with God is one that has been most shifting, beneficial, grounding, and inspirational, for me throughout the years. The story that I’ll share is advice that I received from my pastor over 15 years ago that I still follow to today. And that is to spend 15 minutes with God each day: 5 minutes to praise God, 5 minutes in prayer to God, and 5 minutes in the word of God. Whichever God you serve, I think it’s beneficial to take 15 minutes a day to check in with that relationship. Spend 5 minutes being present and giving thanks, spend 5 minutes being intentional about manifesting your wants and desires, and 5 minutes getting information from a trusted source that will help ground you in your values. Practicing this small 15 minute habit has been one that has led to gratefulness for my past, contentment in the present, and hopefulness for my future both personally and professionally.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a series of unprecedented crises. So many of us see the news and ask how we can help. We’d love to talk about the steps that each of us can take to help heal our county, in our own way. Which particular crisis would you like to discuss with us today? Why does that resonate with you so much?

The work that my career has focused on has been at eliminating mental and behavioral health disparities that result from both interpersonal and racial stressors for ethnic minority youth. Given our current social, political, and historical context, I’d say that the toll of anti-Black racism and discrimination on developing teens is the crisis that resonates with me the most. As a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, I see it as a crisis that we have our Black youth being exposed to racial stressors that are potentially traumatic who are not engaging in the evidence-based services and treatments that we know work to help youth heal from traumatic experiences. This crisis is most salient for me in this moment because I think we now have the attention of policymakers, lawmakers, funders, etc. who can use their positions to help fund, develop, research, evaluate, disseminate, and amplify work that is being done to help Black youth heal from the effects of racial trauma.

This is likely a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?

Racism is a historic and systemic problem that has plagued our nation since slavery, Jim Crow and desegregation, disproportionate suspensions and expulsions and tracking and special education in our school systems, and the pipeline to prison that is characterized by not only the mass incarceration of Black peoples for nonviolent crimes. Now, not only are Black youth experiencing discrimination and racial stressors in their schools and sometimes in their communities, they are experiencing them vicariously from watching videotaped police sanctioned violence and brutality on the news and in the media. When it comes to mental healthcare, Black youth and families are not able to readily access and utilize cognitive behavioral treatments, and when they are able to access them, they are not engaging with these services or benefiting from them over time.

Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience either working on this cause or your experience being impacted by it? Can you share a story with us?

I’ve worked with Black families who say, ‘of course I want to go in and receive mental and behavioral health services — but they’re only offered from 9–5, or they’re only offered during the week, or your center is not on the bus line, or I don’t have childcare for my other children.’ Or, these families say that they were able to access these services but that they had a clinician who was invalidating, biased, making them feel like a bad parent, or that the services were otherwise not attending to their racial stressors at all while focusing on their interpersonal stressors.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.

To this, the 5 steps that I would suggest are for each of us are:

Make yourself accessible! If you are offering help or offering services, offer them during the evenings or on the weekends sometimes. For organizations, this means things like offering telehealth services, accepting and offering travel vouchers, having a sliding scale for fees or offering free services, and advertising services in communities that are in need.

The second suggestion that I have towards helping to heal our country is to meet the people where they’re at! Individuals, organizations, leaders, should all be ingrained as a part of the communities that you want to help. Listen to us, learn from us, give back to us, with us! Building trusting relationships often comes from familiarity and being in close proximity to each other, so it’s important to be in the community that you want to heal.

Educate yourself. This means doing the work yourself to learn about systems of oppression and how they marginalize and negatively impact mental, physical, behavioral, and emotional outcomes. That means reading and sharing what you’ve learned, doing training and continuing education if you are in a helping profession, checking your own implicit biases, and engaging in experiences that will allow you to actively engage in advocacy and allyship in whatever capacity you are able.

Have conversations. Talking about race and racism is difficult for many. To help heal from a wound, though, you have to attend to it and clean it out. The same goes for dealing with racial trauma as an individual, family, community, or society at large. To heal the crisis of racial trauma, we really need to all get comfortable with having the conversation in our personal and professional lives. Parents should talk to their kids about racism at home, teachers should talk to students about it in school, friends should talk about it amongst themselves socially, communities should band together to have the conversation as well. What role can we each play? Having conversations to openly solve long standing issues is important for sharing information, strategies that are effective, and successes so that we are motivated to continue the grueling work of undoing centuries of oppression.

Pace your passion and stay in your lane! Healing the country of racism sounds like such a daunting task, so I think it’s important to know that we can all do a small part. Once you’ve made yourself accessible, gotten ingrained in the community, educated yourself, and gotten comfortable having difficult conversations, it is likely that you’re going to be fired up and ready to do EVERYTHING that you can to make the world a better place. I think it’s important to remember that we all have roles to play and to pace ourselves so that we can stay focused on doing our job well. Resting and unplugging when necessary is critically important to restoring your energy so that you are able to continue the work that is so important.

It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but what can we do to make these ideas a reality? What specific steps can you suggest to make these ideas actually happen? Are there things that the community can do to help you promote these ideas?

The great thing about the 5 steps that I’ve outlined is that we as a community are already doing these things and having these conversations! We literally just need to keep the work going and stay diligent in our efforts to reach broader communities and ultimately heal our nation. A large part of my work is in integrating ‘racial socialization’ into evidence-based services, but it really is just sharing information about the conversations that Black families are already having about race and racism and how to respond to racial stressors.

We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?

I am extremely optimistic about the state of our nation and its ability to heal from and ultimately irradiate anti-Black racism.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

I look at our youth and their peaceful protests and lobbying, their creative expressions and academic writings, and their investment and interest in holistic health and healing, and I am so hopeful about our future! I really don’t think that our young people need any convincing, but it’s because I’ve been working with them for so long. For example, I hold “Passion, Purpose, Power sessions” (https://www.instagram.com/p/CNvhI-ELfhw/) on Monday’s from 1–2:30pm. During these ‘Virtual Office Hours,’ I have had the pleasure of meeting with students, organization leaders, healers, creators, and youth in the community who are all eager to explore how to best utilize their personal strengths, resources, and talents toward the advancement of social justice. For those young people who are still unsure about how to make a positive impact on society, I would tell then to sign up for an upcoming session with me at www.tinyurl.com/passionpurposepowersessions, or to reach out to me via email at isha.metzger@uga.edu

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Beyonce, Beyonce, Beyonce.

How can our readers follow you online?

· www.drishametzger.com

· www.instagram.com/theEMPOWERlab

· https://www.facebook.com/TheEMPOWERlab1

· https://twitter.com/TheEMPOWERLab

· Also, towards eradicating anti-Black racism and healing from racial trauma, I also have an online Racial Trauma Guide (http://www.drishametzger.com/racial-trauma-guideand https://psychology.uga.edu/racial-trauma-guide) and an online “C.A.R.E Package for Racial Healing” that focuses on ‘Coping and Resilience through Empowerment” and includes interactive and real-world activities for Black teens (http://www.drishametzger.com/care-package-for-racial-healing). My Public Health Messaging Campaign (http://www.drishametzger.com/public-health-messaging is also on instagram at https://www.instagram.com/p/CMc9GhygIc2/) uses yard signs and posters to spread information about the signs of racial trauma, how to cope with racial stressors, and strategies for effective allyship. This campaign has been widely disseminated on campus (in the two largest colleges, campus recreational center, housing halls, main class room buildings, and health clinic), around Athens (at churches, community organizations, children’s advocacy centers, and government buildings), at community rallies against racial discrimination and hate crimes (https://www.instagram.com/p/CNOBHKphxVm/), and across our social media. Also, I discuss and disseminate strategies for coping and healing from racial trauma on my Black and EMPOWERED podcast (https://blackandempowered.podbean.com/ and http://www.drishametzger.com/black-and-empowered-podcast) with two of my graduate students and we now have both national and international listeners.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


Dr. Isha Metzger of EMPOWER Lab: 5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

eVisit: Miles David Romney’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Diplomacy. Being young and hot blooded it’s so easy to see passion as the cardinal virtue, to see the world in black and white, and be forever crusading. But in our world, in our time, far more gets done through diplomacy, collaboration, and compromise, than through revolution.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Miles David Romney.

Miles David Romney is Co-Founder, CTO and On-Staff Futurist of eVisit, the leading virtual care platform for large healthcare providers. He leads the team with a clear vision into the future — well beyond 2050 — and a detailed technology roadmap for the company and its customers and prospect organizations. He expertly leads the Product and Engineering teams to regularly deliver rich new functionality within the eVisit Enterprise SaaS platform in response to customer needs and roadmap vision infusing AI, AR and VR, among others. Romney did his undergraduate and graduate work at the University of Utah and has led several tech start-ups in the entertainment and healthcare spaces. He is also a classically trained singer and a Managing Director of the prolific, Tony Award-winning 42nd.club. Most recently, he played the role of “Sparky” in Forever Plaid (Jan. 2021).

He co-founded eVisit as a mission-driven company with a vision to simplify healthcare delivery to everyone, everywhere, enabling virtual care for hospitals and health systems so that they can deliver locally relevant patient care through telehealth. He is a published author, a frequent orator, and a healthtech visionary who has delivered his 2050 Vision (“Virtual Care IS Care”), which includes our home showers-of-the-future enabling proactive healthcare, at several high-profile events including the ATA2021 and the 2021 National Telehealth Summit. eVisit is the only Leader in The Forrester Wave™: Virtual Care Platforms for Digital Health, Q1 2021.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I started my career in healthtech. When I was 14, as a software engineer, I kicked-off the first in-clinic EHR for wireless mobile devices. Shortly after, I wrote secure data transmission and storage methodologies to satisfy what were in those days the new HIPAA requirements, then architected packet streaming encryption systems for video and audio over the web.

I moved into the entertainment industry for 15 years, built and sold a media company, ran an animation studio then a film distributor as CEO, and built out the consumer streaming experiences for EA, Blizzard, ESPN, and others. I love entertainment. Stories are what set us apart from all the other animals; they form the basis for our imagination, our aspiration, our ingenuity. But I didn’t feel I was solving the world’s biggest challenges. In entertainment, I came face-to-face with those challenges, and was supporting filmmakers and other storytellers who talked a lot about those challenges, but none of us was working directly to fix them.

So, I cut back over to healthtech and co-founded eVisit, where for the last seven years we’ve been addressing what is by my lights the world’s second biggest problem: the high cost and uneven availability of healthcare.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I couldn’t possibly pinpoint a single experience as the very most interesting. But I’ve got a deep grab bag of candidates. I’ll admit that the most scintillating stories have happened while I’ve worked in entertainment: hurried calls with Michael Moore as I step out on stage; working with Jared Hess or Tim Blake Nelson; Kiefer Sutherland tripping over me at the Directors’ Guild awards and mistaking me for Sean Astin; moderating panels at Sundance; buying films at Cannes; walking off the Disney lot having sold a TV series… it’s all fodder for great stories.

And obstetrician and nephrology conferences are fun, too.

But you know what really matters? By year’s end, I’ll have been a big part of improving the health and wellness of over a million people. A million. That’s where the rubber really meets the road. It’s not as sexy, it’s not tuxedos and hors d’oeuvres — it’s much more. When a mom who doesn’t have insurance would be faced with a $3k weekend ER bill but instead connects remotely to a pediatrician for $49, that’s me and everyone at eVisit. When medical practices may have faced closure in the face of COVID-19, but instead continued seeing patients remotely, maintaining a revenue stream, that’s me and everyone at eVisit. When a cancer patient can connect immediately to an urgent care physician who specializes in oncology complications — that’s me and everyone at eVisit!

So, while it may not make for the most exciting stories, the best thing I’ve ever done has been in these past 18 months, delivering healthcare over and over again, in many cases to those who need it the most.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

I’m fascinated by the human mind’s capacity for cognitive dissonance, how we can hold to contradictory philosophies and all the while feel righteous and whole. I’m no exception. I hold Jesus Christ in one hand, and Ayn Rand in the other. I hold Christopher Hitchens and Teilhard de Chardin in equal regard. If you can find the Venn overlap in all that, tell me, will you?

On the main: I believe people are usually trying to do the right thing; I believe the world is getting better and better, and that now is the greatest time in history to be alive; I believe that humanity will last another million years, and that we’ll spread out across the galaxy; I believe that with work, passion, and discipline, most anyone can accomplish most anything.

Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

The 2050 Vision for Healthcare:

Imagine waking gently at 6 am, not to the buzz of an alarm, but smoothly by a process that feels as natural as can be, steadily deployed by an app in your micro-implant. You stand and stretch, pass through the kitchen where you grab the cup of coffee that’s already waiting for you. You stare out at the sun rising over the city stretching at your feet while you peruse a few headlines, not on a mobile device or a hanging display, but rather, through your implant, and its ocular, or maybe neurological, interface.

Then you walk to the bathroom, slip out of your pajamas, and step into the shower. Before the water starts, though, you hear the hum of a full-body MRI scan, and feel the soft nipping (or maybe you feel nothing at all) of a half-dozen instruments collecting samples, and cataloguing vitals.

Results are analyzed real-time by AI, and sent to your care team for validation. A transdermal infuser pushes a cocktail into your blood: vitamins, relaxants, pain killers, beta blockers, anxiolytics, TNF inhibitors, even stimulants (your coffee is decaf). All synthesized in response to your current blood chemistry, and carefully balanced against one another.

When the steam roils up from beneath you and the hot water sprays down from above, you already feel like a new person.

Your doctors are still involved. And when it comes time for a conversation, you’ll have it — remotely, over video or VR. It’s all at your fingertips, but you’re only as aware of it as you want to be. Until a crisis hits, and when it does, the local infrastructure will exist to treat it, because your virtual care has largely been flowing through it, informing it, funding it.

There’s no taking time off of work to drive down to a medical center, no hassling with parking, no fighting to schedule with 5 different doctors, losing your lab orders and having to drive into the clinic to get a replacement, no accidental drug-on-drug interactions, or a drop in drug efficacy because of your own evolving chemistry.

No. Many of your vitals are collected and monitored continually through your implant. Others come daily, when you step into your shower. All of them flow in real time through AI and your flesh-and-blood care team at a frequency and with a granularity that would be the envy of any Ferrari mechanic. Your body will be, as it were, a well-oiled machine.

How do you think this will change the world?

With highly efficient mechanisms and democratized distribution, healthcare can become a right and not a privilege. When health, wellness, and longevity can be taken for granted, so much more becomes possible.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

Oh yes. There will always be unintended consequences. There are always risks. Progress is, almost by definition, messy. There are many ways this tech could go wrong, will go wrong. I’ve written all about that in my novel A Bloody Calculus (published under the pseudonym Milo Behr).

But the overwhelming skew is toward the good. And the thing about progress is: it’s both the solution to, and the cause of, all our problems. The only way forward, is through. We will never reach a state of equilibrium. We’re always either expanding or contracting, flourishing or decaying.

It’s exhilarating.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

I’m hardly the first futurist to explore the idea of a “doc in a box”. I may be the first to have built a product roadmap around it. I start with social problems, with outcomes, and then work backwards. My inner dialog went something like this:

Sociopolitically, where is the world trending, regardless of how I may feel about it? Toward socialism, collectivism, or at least communitarianism. Increased population density favors collectivist approaches, while making self-sufficiency more difficult.

Again, setting qualitative judgment aside, what is preventing this approach from succeeding? Above all else, healthcare. Nothing can be a right, an expectation, while it remains so expensive to deliver, while it obligates so many others in its fulfillment.

How can healthcare be democratized? Through the same commoditization that has put a mobile phone — a device superior by orders of magnitude to the $1M+ UNIVAC computer of the 1960s — in every hand.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

This is the beautiful part. All we need to make this a reality is what humanity has in spades: ambition. The pieces are already coming together. Technologies are emerging. Standards are gelling. Care strategies are evolving. Education and payment philosophies are morphing. Collaboration is happening — which is important because it will take a lot to make this a reality.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.

To me this question reads as, “What are five skills you wish you’d mastered before you hit 20?” Because any number of people told me any number of valuable things that I simply didn’t take to heart, because I didn’t yet have the life skills that taught me their importance.

So here goes:

  1. Accounting, investment. What do all (persistently) financially successful people have in common? They’re good with money.
  2. Networking. Learn names. Learn names. Remember everyone you talk to, write them down, think about how you could accomplish more together than apart.
  3. Delegation. I developed this one in spades in my twenties. Even so, though, I kept too many “sacred” tasks to myself. Unless it’s a skill you want to develop, if you have access to someone else who can do any particular task better, faster, or cheaper than you, tap them.
  4. Diplomacy. Being young and hot blooded it’s so easy to see passion as the cardinal virtue, to see the world in black and white, and be forever crusading. But in our world, in our time, far more gets done through diplomacy, collaboration, and compromise, than through revolution.
  5. Parkour. I’m convinced that all Middle and High School PE programs should be replaced with parkour. (I’m particularly exuberant about it because I have a condition similar to rheumatoid arthritis and went through a period where I could barely walk. Wall-running, flipping, and rolling feel almost superhuman to me, now.) Simply put, it’s the physical discipline of moving through the world without breaking yourself, and the psychological discipline of seeing every obstacle as an opportunity.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Treat yourself as a whole person. We all know — most entrepreneurs do — the pressures that push us into working hundred-hour weeks. That’s healthily sustainable in short bursts. For a good while, I made the mistake of building a lifestyle around it. Sure, that can result in hyper-productivity for a while (years, even). But it eventually catches up with you, hits your health, and starts to limit productivity and creativity. I don’t like the phrase “work/life balance” because it implies that work is not life. It is, it’s a major part of life. But it’s not the only part of life. I prefer, simply, “life balance.” Knowledge workers, software engineers particularly, are often prone to obsession, to “life imbalance.” It’s part of what makes us effective. But it means we have to proactively build a discipline of balance into our lives — it will not happen by itself.

Exercise and physical activity are part of that. That has been martial arts and dance for me in the past (and then neglected completely for a decade); today it’s Parkour. It could be yoga, bodybuilding, running — take your pick. But something physical is non-negotiable, not only for maintaining balance, but also for spurring the mind. Tony Robbins talks about taking affirmations to the next level, to what he calls “incantations,” by adding “physiology.” That is, putting physical passion behind your thoughts; making them real by speaking them out into the world, and putting your body behind them. This concept is not new. It’s taken up in some way by nearly every major religion: the need to do something physical to symbolize an intellectual, emotional, or spiritual choice. When I take the time to nurture my body, my mind feels the benefit.

I always want to be evolving. To change any behavior, it must be measured, and it must be accountable. Otherwise, it will follow the path of least resistance. I keep a spreadsheet with a row for every day, and a column for every daily discipline I maintain. It includes physical exercise, incantations, right thinking, service, family. Then I choose a couple people (close friends or family) to be accountable to. There’s ruthless honesty between us — I literally have no secrets.

I find that knowing who I am, and who I want to be, then writing all that down and tracking it, understanding the delta: it makes my path forward clear.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

The vision I’m painting is beyond the reach of any single VC — any dozen together. What’s more, it’s impossible at this point to game the outcome. We’re too early. All of us — operators and investors alike — need to nurture whatever promising building blocks we see. Something very much like what I’ve described will be the inevitable result of this successful execution.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow our progress at eVisit in simplifying healthcare delivery to everyone, everywhere.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/evisit

Twitter:@evisit

Facebook: @evisitApp

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


eVisit: Miles David Romney’s Big Idea That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Natalie Hausia-Haugen of Auth0: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Working through diverse perspectives, opinions, ideas, and ways of communicating takes extra effort. But decades of research across industries and cultures have proven that even the process of working through diverse ideas leads to better results, never mind the direct benefits that come from having multiple sources of ideas (as opposed to the same three over and over).

As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Natalie Hausia-Haugen of Auth0.

Natalie Hausia-Haugen is the Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, responsible for accelerating Auth0’s DEI vision, policies and processes, and further developing Auth0’s culture of inclusion and belonging. Natalie brings more than 15 years of industry experience and most recently worked at Nike, where she held senior employee engagement, diversity and inclusion, and people-related roles. She was a leader on Nike’s diversity and inclusion employee council and the co-chair of Nike’s employee resources group for teammates of color with roots in Asia, the Middle East, and the Pacific Islands. Before Nike, Natalie worked for Target, Inc. leading both local and national diversity and inclusion strategies.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into the main part of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share a bit of your “backstory” with us?

Most of my career has focused on the employee experience as I have been passionate and inspired by people. Personally, diversity and inclusion has always been part of being in this world being the daughter of an immigrant and interracial marriage who was raised in the U.S. military and a woman of color who is “ambiguously ethnic.”

Over the past two decades my successes in my career have been rooted in helping others thrive, especially the underrepresented and the misunderstood. Because of these passions, both personally and professionally, I have always been drawn to DEI leadership roles, which is where I am today as Auth0’s Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

One of the most meaningful projects I’ve ever worked on was with Target. I helped open the first stores in Hawai’i. It was especially meaningful because of my Polynesian heritage, and because I considered Honolulu my home. My role was intercultural training, helping Target teams learn about Hawaiian culture and what it meant to work there, and helping the local team members we hired in Hawai’i learn about Target culture and what it meant to work at Target.

This was important because, although Hawai’i is part of the United States, it is also, in many ways, its own nation. It was both a great honor and a great degree of responsibility for me to feel like a diplomat between the two cultures and people. As much as I appreciated my role with Target and respected them as an employer, I love the people and culture of Hawai’i immeasurably more. What made this more complex was that, at the end of the day, this was a business deal and Target was coming to Hawai’i to make money in a new market. I accepted the role knowing it meant I would be helping a big corporation come to a land and people who had already been annexed and colonized. I also accepted the job because I knew I would be able to help make sure Target did it right. All in all, the opening of Target stores was successful, in terms of sales, operations, and culturally. It was not perfect, and mistakes were made. But we were deliberate about working with local leaders, honoring traditional customs, respecting the pace and process of the islands even when it cost money and time. Unlike for other big corporations that had entered or tried to enter Hawai’i, protests were small and short-lived, and the locals embraced Target quickly.

One of the biggest lessons I took from this experience was that, even when I may not agree with a project 100%, I may be in a unique position to help align the results and ways of working more closely with what I do believe in. It may seem easy to say that if you don’t agree with something 100%, you should not agree to it at all. But it’s not that simple, especially when culture, social justice and business are involved. And though you may believe contributing to the work is the best thing, others may not understand, even when it is in service to them. You have to accept that. There will be many times you’ll have to play the role of diplomat, which can be exhausting. But it’s worth it.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you tell us a story about how that was relevant in your own life?

My favorite quote is from Dr. Maya Angelou, “You should be angry. You must not be bitter. Bitterness is like a cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure. So, use that anger. Write it, march it, vote it, do everything about it. Talk about it. Never stop talking about it.”

This quote is meaningful to me in many ways, but mostly because it validates emotions we are often told to hide or get over — either because it’s not professional, “ladylike,” or normal. It is common for people to be told or taught to stifle their true feelings when it makes others uncomfortable. This is often true for those in the minority or lesser position. So often, if our feelings risk making those in power feel something negative, or worse, culpable, we’re made to feel badly about these feelings. If you’ve ever been in the minority and felt wronged by or in conflict with those in charge, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Thanks in part to this quote from Dr. Angelou, I take note of when I feel myself or sense others discrediting a valid sentiment because we’re worried it may make someone in power feel uncomfortable. Yes, there are times when the setting or those present make it necessary to hold off from expressing that sentiment in that moment. But it does not mean the sentiment is not justified.

Acknowledging what you feel is necessary to get clear on the why, which is necessary to get clear on what can be done. And that’s the important part, that you don’t stay in that feeling but you use it to get somewhere better. What we cannot do is tell someone or ourselves that we shouldn’t feel the way we do. At best, it’s dishonest. At worst, it’s delaying a difficult truth that will have to be addressed one way or another and will only grow more difficult in the meantime. I can be angry with my parents, my leaders, or my government, and still be a good child, a good employee, and a good citizen.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

My husband, David Haugen. We met in college, over 20 years ago. I’ve been with him more than half of my life. There are many times when he has believed in me more than I have believed in myself. He knows where I’ve come from, the best parts of me that I’ve kept and sharpened, the parts of me I’ve had to change and heal, and the parts of me that still need work. He is also one person whose counsel I always trust because he is brilliant and wise, incapable of sugarcoating, and loves me unconditionally. So even if it’s hard to hear or not what I want to hear, I know it’s probably right. His faith and his counsel have often helped me keep moving forward until my faith and reason caught up.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Most companies have values, but at Auth0, our three values are beloved and common parts of our everyday work-life. They are used as shorthand to get us aligned quickly, to celebrate each other, and to guide decisions.

I believe that because our culture and mission are so strong, we attract people who know who they are; people who aren’t out to prove anything because they know who they are. This manifests in very active value alignment:

People don’t just do things because they’re told; they do what they believe is the right thing.

Our folks are joyful helpers. People don’t hold back from giving help, sharing information, tips, and things they’ve learned the hard way because they are confident in who they are, what they know and have done, so do not worry that making others better will decrease themselves.

Better ideas go unblocked by ego — people are more open to hearing each other out because, again, different, or new ideas do not challenge their own sense of achievement or value.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

I’m currently developing a workshop tentatively titled, Outshining the Skeptics. For context, let’s acknowledge that there are many programs aimed at helping companies hire more talent from underrepresented minorities. This is a good goal. However, one challenge is that if you are part of an underrepresented minority and get hired or promoted at a company that has publicly stated this is one of their goals, there’s a very real risk that others may believe you were only hired or promoted because you are a minority. This can be a very difficult label to carry or worry about, even when you know it’s not true.

The workshop I’m designing is meant to help those who are worried about being labeled as the “diversity hire/promotion.” In this workshop, you’ll dig deeper into the label, how you think it will manifest in your job, and the extent to which you want this concern to control how you work. You’ll get tools and tactics to help you not let this concern keep you from shining your brightest.

I’m passionate about this because it’s hard enough to get the job or the promotion when you’re in a system that wasn’t designed for you. We cannot have this newly hired or promoted talent wasting energy worrying about ignorant thinking or holding back their shine because they got a few signals from skeptics. Like I told members of our Women’s Leadership Group, “So what if some people think you got the role because you’re a woman. Forget that. Do your thing and soon enough, it will be so clear you’re where you should be, anyone who dares suggest otherwise will look jealous and desperate.” I realize it’s not as easy as that…but if we all linked arms, it could be.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I hope I have added goodness to the world by helping others see and be more of the goodness in themselves. For me, “success at work” has allowed me the opportunity to serve more people with greater impact. I only consider myself successful if my efforts have somehow helped others get closer to finding, being, and feeling the best versions of themselves. As I’ve been trusted with more elevated roles that have greater and greater impact, I’ve seen it as a way to help more and more people thrive at their jobs, believing that by doing so, it’s helping them thrive overall.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line. (Please share a story or example for each.)

I could talk about this all day, especially because when it comes to talking about DEI at work, most people think, “social justice.” But this is not about social justice. In this context, diversity is all about the bottom line.

If you’re going to quote me on this topic, you must include two extremely important things that must also be true, if your company’s bottom line is to benefit from diversity. And that is that one, you must have diversity throughout the process (i.e. as things are being created, tested, marketed, etc.). And two, you must have a culture in which diverse voices are respected.

Assuming those two things are true, below are five ways diversity impacts a company’s bottom line:

  1. Diverse teams = greater market share for your bottom line. These days, just about anyone can design, create, and sell a product or service. This growing number of options and increasing access to sellers means consumers are less dependent on businesses to tell them what they should do or buy or think. It flips the relationship. Now businesses better be listening to and understanding their consumers. If they don’t, consumers have no problem swiping left until something resonates. The best way to know your consumers? Have them on your team. For example at Auth0, one reason we stand out in our industry, the identity and access management space, is that we were the first and are the best at selling directly to the developer community, while our competitors sell at the enterprise level. The reason we were able to establish and own this market is because our team is made of developers.
  2. Diverse teams help you do no (less) harm, saving your bottom line from reputational damage, lawsuits, and recalling a product that’s already hit the market. As is often said in the legal system, ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law. In other words, just because you do not intend to cause harm, it does not absolve you of responsibility for the harm you caused. This is another reason diversity on your team is important. You don’t know what you don’t know. The more diversity you have at various stages of the process, the more likely you are to have someone identify a risk or issue you don’t want. Clothing retailers provide many examples of this. For example, a retailer releasing clothing designs or marketing ads that are blatantly offensive to certain demographics that probably would have been caught if someone from or adjacent to those demographics had been somewhere in the process and able to speak up. One tech example is facial recognition software which has been proven to be significantly less accurate for Black, Brown, immigrant and trans faces, leading to particularly dangerous consequences when used for policing. While I cannot speak to who was or wasn’t in the rooms for this software, I can say it was not diverse enough to include a very wide range of the population it negatively impacts.
  3. Diversity in your strategy = your ability to create or sell in the first place. It’s not enough for a company to say they support an important cause. Their support must be demonstrated through their business practices and partners. Having a stance on DEI and strategies to support them will impact your ability to get the contract, as well as your ability to get the supplies or partnerships you need to produce what you sell. At Auth0, it is with increasing frequency that we complete surveys that include details on our DEI strategy before a potential customer finalizes the sale. In the same way, there are some companies we simply will not do business with because their actions and values do not align with ours. Consumer research shows us DEI matters are of increasing importance to an increasingly diverse market. We’re only a few years out from a day when companies who do not truly care about diversity will be looked at like a company who openly dumps waste in the ocean. Only, they won’t get time to clean it up the way companies did back in the 70s and 80s.
  4. Diversity = tension = strength. The reason we even have to talk about diversity — why it requires focus — is because it’s difficult. It’s difficult because it requires you to change (i.e. if you keep doing things the way you do them, you’ll keep getting the same results) and it adds something new into the system. Change and new things take extra effort. And in the same way lifting weights or learning a new song on the piano takes extra effort at first, it makes us better all-around. Working through diverse perspectives, opinions, ideas, and ways of communicating takes extra effort. But decades of research across industries and cultures have proven that even the process of working through diverse ideas leads to better results, nevermind the direct benefits that come from having multiple sources of ideas (as opposed to the same three over and over).
  5. Diversity overall = healthy habits that help when diversity is low. If you come from a team or system where diversity — and the results of diversity — is the norm, you know why it’s important and you notice when it’s missing. This is helpful for those unavoidable times when there is less diversity around the table than you’d like. It helps you pause and ask, “Who are we not thinking about?” or “What questions are we not asking?” Even if you cannot get access to more diversity, you can note the risks and adjust accordingly. For example, we had an engineering team working through a new solution that would be applied across our global company. Unfortunately, due to time zones and deadlines, certain regions of the world were not represented on the project team. Knowing that the missing perspectives of these regions would mean missing out on nuances only those in-country would know or could experience, the project team agreed to adjust their goals. Instead of developing a global solution, they would pilot a solution for EMEA and the Americas, factoring in as much as they could about the other regions, but not commit to full rollout until the other regions worked through the challenge, too. As a result, the solution was rolled out six weeks later but with an error rate that was 75% lower than expected, and a 99% adoption rate four weeks ahead of schedule, across all regions.

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive?

The best advice I can give other business leaders is to lead with empathy and foster a space where courage, real freedom, and our shared humanity meet. These ingredients will help create a culture of inclusion and belonging where all people can show up as their authentic self, speak their truth, learn, develop, and grow together.

As leaders, it is also important to hold people accountable. For DEI leaders, this means first defining what it means to be inclusive and consistently demonstrating that being anything less than inclusive is not an acceptable. Period. By building this inclusive culture employees will believe they are being seen and heard, which enables positive company culture.

What advice would you give to other business leaders about how to manage a large team?

  • Protect your middle: Larger teams start to have more layers. As your team gains more layers, it becomes increasingly important you take care of the middle managers who often bear the added stress of pressure from above and below, but lack the relief or benefits that come with meaningful power and access. These folks are already tired from balancing pressure on both sides, then you add the extra work they’re putting in to earn their way to the next level. At the same time, they’re incredibly important because they care for the masses AND they are the next set of leaders. It’s a strange irony of business that such an important group with so much impact on the majority of your team should also be the ones who are most worn out and feel the least empowered. As the boss’s boss, you will do well to have a strategy dedicated to caring for this middle group. They manage the masses and are your future.
  • Make sure you “have clothes on.” There’s an old folktale called, “The Emperor Has No Clothes,” about an emperor who is tricked into thinking he’s wearing invisible clothes but is actually naked. His employees and subjects are so worried about making him upset or looking dumb, they do not tell the emperor they see him as naked. He ends up walking naked in a parade until a child finally says the truth. Recognize and reward those who give you difficult news and challenge your thinking. Make sure people know you reward this behavior and expect it. While it may be nice to be surrounded by people who make you feel good, smart, and like everything is in control, it is also a sure way to find yourself in a bad situation that should have been prevented.
  • Trust Your People and Lift Up: Realize that there are some important things that only you can do for your team, given the access and position you have as a leader. This means, if you’re not doing it, no one else can, which means, you don’t have time to do the things your team CAN do. Trust them to do it so you can focus your time and energy doing the things they need in order to be successful, but can’t do it themselves.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

Lena Waithe. She’s so many of my favorite things about this world, all in one person: she’s a brilliant teller of untold stories; she’s naturally gifted but has also worked incredibly hard to develop her craft; she’s not just brave — she’s also brave enough to go out front; she respects and grows from criticism instead of letting it bring her down; as her access and platform grows, she cannot help but use it to bring others up; she wants to entertain and make you think; plus, she has wicked fresh style.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can follow me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/natalie-hausia-haugen-3869a4114

Also, you can follow my DEI journey at Auth0 via https://auth0.com/ and our LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/auth0/

Thank you for these excellent insights. We wish you continued success in your great work.


Natalie Hausia-Haugen of Auth0: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Regina Lynn Jaeger: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be customer focused which leads to loyalty. Find out what your customer pain points are. Ask questions to understand better what their needs are and then begin creating strategies around the information you discover. This shows that you have gone above and beyond to serve them in a way that most brands won’t. It also communicates that you are listening to your customers and taking action to solve those problems. This helps customers feel connected to your brand.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Regina Lynn Jaeger.

Regina Lynn helps Brands through creating compelling visual media so that they can establish strong first impressions with consumers and be the leading expert in their field.

She is the Founder of Regina Lynn Visuals, helping brands to have representation of themselves that stands out through photography and video. After working in the luxury event space for 10 years and with various brands, Regina Lynn uses her experience to help others show up in a way where they can get past the noise and be seen. She’s worked with companies including, Martha Stewart, House of Kirschner, Origins Healthcare, and various fitness franchises.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Since I was a young girl, I was always fascinated with creating content. I remember playing on my Windows Movie Maker trying to create entertaining videos. It wasn’t until I went off to college and discovered how much I really enjoyed and thrived at creating stories that I decided to pursue creating content for business’s.

After graduating, I went straight into editing full time for a Non-profit organization. Creating their marketing and advertising content. I watched them more than double their growth nationally and internationally, within those 4 years of working for them. It was an unforgettable experience to play a leading role using video marketing and advertising to drive sales and build brand awareness.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

My mistakes were more created around making a grammatical errors. I happen to be one of those writers that isn’t the best speller. Fortunately, I’ve always worked with very detailed teams and organizations that catch things like that which has helped me get better.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

My company is huge on making sure the details and the bigger picture are communicated effectively to the audience. We also like to make sure the client feels supported and clear through the process of working together.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am gearing up to launch my branding department in a bigger way. I have years of experience creating digital marketing and sales content for brands and private companies. Reopening these services allows me to better serve my clients in a greater capacity.

Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

Branding is a way of identifying your business. In essence, it’s your identity. It’s about how you show up, how customers experience your look, language, and company culture. All these elements are how your customers experience your brand. Advertising is about the promotion of a specific product or service to gain sales and attract interest. Product marketing is about the process of bringing a product to the market and knowing what message to convey and to who. You are defining the target market and value proposition in the marketplace and driving the demand and usage of the product.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

How your brand shows up matters and can ultimately impact your bottom line. By making the choice to invest your resources and energy into your brand, you are solidifying your position in the marketplace. This can lead to more sales, attracting better customers, and commanding a premium price. Strong branding boost the overall value of your company and creates a long term connection with customers.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

  1. Get clear on what your brand identity will be and start to align your organization around those values. Allow your customers to experience your brand at every touch point. This will reinforce who your brand is and their values every time a customer comes in contact with you.
  2. Be customer focused which leads to loyalty. Find out what your customer pain points are. Ask questions to understand better what their needs are and then begin creating strategies around the information you discover. This shows that you have gone above and beyond to serve them in a way that most brands won’t. It also communicates that you are listening to your customers and taking action to solve those problems. This helps customers feel connected to your brand.
  3. Share reviews and testimonials. 74% of consumers identify word of mouth as the key influence in their purchasing decision, but only 33% of business are actively seeking out and collecting reviews (see reference below). Share what people are saying about your brand and show people experiencing your brand. This creates social proof about your company and continues to solidify the experience customers have with your brand.
  4. Show up on social media. This can sound daunting but it’s not once you understand where your customers are. This allows you to be very specific on which social media channels you show up on. You are then able to start interacting directly and building your connection to your customers via social media. This is a very powerful tool that brands can leverage in many different ways.
  5. Create content. Provide information that educates them on a problem that your brand solves. Give away tips and other information that show customers how to make informed purchasing decisions. Create content about your company culture, inviting them in to who you are as a brand. Create content that provides value. In return, this elevates your authority and expertise in your field, making you the expert.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

I think of Disney. I love how I feel every time I make a purchase from them or interact with their team members. They always go the extra mile and it shows at their theme parks and on the big screen. I appreciate how they’ve stayed relevant as the marketplace has shifted. They are very present with their customers and have mastered the art of selling through story, providing amazing customer service and an incredible brand experience. Whether we are attending a theme park or watching a movie we leave with the Disney experience.

A brand can replicate this buy honing in the brand experience they want to create for customers and fine tuning the customer service. Using story to sell products or services is also a powerful tool that helps create a more engaging and entertaining sales process. It also builds trust and rapport and positions you in the seat of influence during the buying decision. These three components executed in your company, position you to be the leading voice in your industry.

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

Branding is about your brand identity. Advertising is about promoting your brand, product or service. You will measure the success of an ad campaign by your sales before, during and after the campaign. In a branding campaign you are looking to measure how much engagement the brand received. On social media platforms that’s looking at the engagement rate, impressions, likes, shares. You also want to look at the click through rate and see how many people landed on your website. This information gives you how effective your branding campaign was.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Every company should be on social media. Unlike traditional marketing, social media is a way to get your brand in front of people more quickly and easier. Some of the benefits of social media include building brand awareness and conversations around your brand. Promoting and marketing your services and products, and it allows you to gather data from audience research directly from the platform. Social media will only continue to grow and is a great tool for your brand to show up and engage with prospects and current customers. It’s a great place to incorporate advertising, marketing and branding strategies to grow your brand and create long term relationships with customers. I highly recommend jumping on board and utilizing this powerful tool.

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Make a plan. Marketing, at first can sound daunting, especially to someone that isn’t a marketer, but with anything that’s new you’ve got to decide what’s best to keep in house or hire out. When hiring, take your time as you get to know the company you are considering working with. I have seen business’s hire out their marketing and see a huge drop in the brand’s engagement, following, and even have been locked out of their accounts. Get to know the company you are hiring and make sure it’s a right fit for your brand.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Show up for your brand. There are so many great brands out there that do a lot of good work that don’t get seen because they haven’t understood how to effectively market themselves. You owe it to yourself to make sure your brand is seen and people know you exist.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you” by Tony Robbins

This is the perspective I use whenever I am working through low points in life. It reminds me how powerful I really am. Often times we can feel like because things didn’t go as planned or we didn’t have the same opportunities as others that we are powerless or we start to victimize ourselves. This quote reminds me to keep going, lean in and decide to make it to the other side of whatever I may be facing at the time.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Kris Jenner, Maye Musk and Sara Blakely– All very smart women. Have either raised or are raising kids and have built a legacy. I would love to go to lunch with them, let my hair down and pick their minds about their journey in life and laugh a lot.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Website: Reginalynnvisuals.com

Instagram: @reginalynnvisuals

FB: https://www.facebook.com/regina.lynn.967

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/regina-lynn-jaeger-30374a61/

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/reginalynnvisuals

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Regina Lynn Jaeger: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Mindful Eating: Rajesh Sengamedu’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Everyone’s end goal is lasting happiness. Not all realize this, but we wrongly assume the means (home, job, partner, promotion etc.) as the end. The means (disguised as ends in our mind) only provide short-lived happiness and we continue the rat race.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Rajesh Sengamedu.

Rajesh’s life mission is to help people live happy & healthy.

Rajesh Sengamedu is a yoga practitioner for over 30+ years combining body-work (hatha-yoga), breath-work (pranayama), mind-work (meditation) & diet. He coaches yoga, breathing & meditation techniques to family, colleagues, friends and helps in changing to sustainable and healthy food habits. Rajesh is also a student of Vedanta philosophy, seeing the ‘oneness‘ & ‘connectedness‘ everywhere. His goal is to integrate the Vedantic teachings along with the yoga, pranayama & meditation techniques and help people live healthy & happy.

Rajesh is a business development executive for a consulting IT services company and based in Bay Area.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I am a sales & marketing professional. After three years of working in manufacturing plants, I felt I wanted to be closer to the customer. Manufacturing seemed routine — same plant & shopfloor, lifeless machines, production orders and shipment. I realized that I was interacting with machines that make monotonous noise, than with people. What I was doing was not what I wanted to do. This was the biggest a-ha moment and I decided to make a change.

I am a lifelong student of human behavior making my small little mental notes about each interaction and trying to decode what drives a person. (as a side note, hopefully this study will yield enough material to write my first fiction book!). It was only natural that I choose sales as my profession because it provides ample opportunities to interact with many people, understand their stated & unstated needs, wants and provide solutions to contribute to their success. Consulting services was a natural fit for me because I can go beyond the technology stack, shape the customer needs and deliver a solution to create their business success and personal wins.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

There are many interesting stories but one that comes to my mind is how I met Ratan Tata, the Chairman of Tata Sons, who run global businesses from steel, automobiles to software. I was in the airport lounge when I saw him get off his car and sprinting up the stairs. I took my chance and stopped him, asking him a question, “Sir, are you Ratan Tata?” and he smilingly said yes. He was almost benevolent that a rookie young kid recognized him! I think I asked him another yes or no question and we both went our ways. His humility attracted me. He had no bodyguards around him, no secretary to carry his briefcase and surely was not flying in private jet! I came to realize later that by design Tata Sons is a trust that distributes all profits to the society and Mr. Tata, though was a Chief Executive of several companies, was a trustee of the wealth generated, not taking more than what he needed for his living, despite running huge multi-billion dollar business empire.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

In the first two decades of my career, I was primarily driven by the capitalism credo — make more money and make it fast. My decisions were driven primarily by money as I subconsciously gave a higher weightage to money. It became a goal. Strangely, I had separated life and work in my mind and had a different philosophy for life which was to be good, do good and to stay humble. At times, I was conflicted that these two goals did not align.

The last decade has been driven by the philosophy of the famous Hindu scripture, The Bhagavad Gita. I understood that money was just a means to an end. I knew with unfailing certainty what the ‘end goal’ of my life was. This clarity in understanding what the means & end are, gave meaning to all the work I was doing — at workplace, in the community and for my family. The clarity also meant that I was able to fit the puzzle of life, viewing work as ‘part’ of my life rather than seeing work & life as distinct compartments with the weekdays devoted to work and weekends to life!

I hope to summarize Gita’s profound philosophy in a few statements as I have assimilated it. This is secular, highly practical and applicable to everyone, irrespective of what their beliefs are.

  1. Everyone’s end goal is lasting happiness. Not all realize this, but we wrongly assume the means (home, job, partner, promotion etc.) as the end. The means (disguised as ends in our mind) only provide short-lived happiness and we continue the rat race.
  2. Lasting happiness can come only to a mind that is equanimous, calm and accepting.
  3. To develop such a mind, one should train it to serve others, and never our selfish interests. One should make decisions always using the principle of the ‘larger good’. To train the mind, we use our current life-situations and make the various roles (parent, neighbor, professional at work, friend etc.) we play as mind’s training ground.
  4. Such training expands the mind and makes it inclusive, ultimately seeing the unity in diversity clearly. The training is also a conscious daily attempt to correct the wrong assumptions about ourselves. This develops a new vision of who we are.
  5. When wrong assumptions are removed, the mind naturally becomes equanimous because its cravings & our desires are no more about the means. Then the life goal of lasting happiness is realized.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

My idea is to encourage people to fast regularly and eat mindfully, attuning themselves to natural cycles.

Fasting has been proven to improve health, and a positive side effect is we also save money! The money saved can be donated to charities who deliver food to the hungry.

Nature moves in cycles — monthly and annual cycles being two important ones. The waxing and waning of the moon form the monthly cycle. We see the effect on large water bodies like the oceans. Given our body is 70% liquid, it is only natural that even we are impacted by the moon. Therefore, it is recommended to fast once a fortnight to rest the body and bring it back in tune with nature. This is a time-tested ancient practice known as ekadasi (to fast on the 11th day of waxing /waning moon to neutralize ill-effects of the changes on our body) that millions follow since age immemorial with positive benefits.

Food acts like a natural medicine when we intake right quantity and quality of food. It is only when we overeat or eat the wrong type of food, we fall sick and need to consume medicine as food!

Fasting and eating mindfully saves money too! The money can be donated to charities who are working to solve hunger.

I want to create a platform that would help people track their eating and fasting habits, estimate money saved and connect them to charities of their choice to donate. They can choose to donate part, or all the money saved to help the needy.

This simple idea will improve health and lifespan of people. It will also be a great way of uplifting those who struggle with food scarcity.

How do you think this will change the world?

About 700 million people go hungry every day. On the other hand, over a billion people suffer chronic health issues primarily due to the wrong foods consumed, overeating & incorrect eating habits. According to World Health Organization, studies have shown that unhealthy diet is one of the key reasons in development of chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and some types of cancer. Not giving sufficient rest to digestive system to recuperate is known as the root cause of many illnesses.

If a billion people can fast once a fortnight, and eat only what the body needs, that is a lot of money saved which can be donated to charities delivering food to needy.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

It is said that food is medicine. When we are careful about what we eat, how much we eat, we don’t fall sick that often and it also improves our immunity, flexibility and overall wellbeing.

When people adopt fasting & healthy eating habits, they automatically become conscious of what they eat, how much and the quality of food. This will reduce their consumption on essentials, that would likely disrupt the food chains because of reduced demand. Restaurants and grocery stores may see lower footfall as people attune themselves to the changing lunar cycles by fasting once a fortnight.

As people become healthy, and immune, they also make frequent trips to doctors and hospitals, reducing the undue demand placed on these institutions. In addition, research money to develop new drugs can be redirected towards sustainable farming and living practices.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

Since many years, I fast once a fortnight. For the last five years, I also practiced mindful eating during the four months of big seasonal changes corresponding to the period — mid-July to mid-November (annual solar cycle and this period is known as chaturmasa — ‘four months’). I have experienced improved health and mental well-being and was able to rid myself of several chronic issues like frozen shoulder, asthma and improved body flexibility and immunity. I found myself increasingly happier and contented. Moreover, I was fortunate that I did not take any medication to stay healthy!

In 2020, a few friends joined me to practice regular fortnightly fasting for a whole year as well as adapting to mindful eating during July to November. Some of them had led a consumerist lifestyle where food was central to their life and enjoyment and each one had some health issue or the other. The health benefits and personality transformation they saw in themselves by fortnightly fasting and seasonal mindful eating was awe- inspiring. We also discovered that we were saving money too. Then one day, we connected the dots when we asked ourselves, “What if we encourage others to live healthy, save money and donate?”

Excited with our personal transformation stories, we decided to encourage friends and family to fast and join in mindful eating. We co-authored a book, “Wellbeing through Food & Discipline | The Chaturmasa Diaries” to share our experiences of aligning our food habits to the changing monthly lunar and annual solar cycles. In 2021, we have doubled the number of participants who have signed up for Chaturmasa mindful eating!

That’s how the idea of the platform to encourage fasting and mindful eating came about.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

Presently, we are influencing friends and family through word of mouth. We also wrote the book to demystify fasting, mindful eating and provide scientific explanations (where possible) to encourage people to make lifestyle changes. We feel that our ambition of encouraging people to live healthy while contributing to reduce food scarcity is not overly ambitious. It may take time for it to become mainstream, but once we create a platform, it can spread faster.

The platform itself is a simple mobile and web-based application that would encourage people to fast, save and donate. We explained in detail what the platform would do in our book.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

This is a great question. Let me summarize my 5 wishes:

  1. I wish someone had told me that food is primarily for nourishment.
  2. I wish someone had told me that when faced with a choice between nourishment and indulgence, one should choose nourishment.
  3. I wish someone had scientifically explained the interconnection of the nature’s lunar and solar cycles on our body & mind and connected the power of fasting, or mindful eating attuned to changing seasons to our health.
  4. I wish someone had explained that we all are so intricately interconnected, and our habits have a long cascading reaction on the food chain and nature’s ecosystem. Positive food habits will create positive reactions while consumerist habits creating ecological imbalance.
  5. Finally, I wish someone had told me the mind-body connection and explained that holistic health means not just physical, but includes sensory, emotional, intellectual health as well and food plays a key role in our wellbeing.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Definition of success is person dependent. I would encourage the readers to first spend a few minutes to daily reflect on what success means for them with three timeline horizons in mind — the day, the month and the year. If one journals this for a few weeks, one will see interesting thought patterns, that are current habits. Then, one should critically ask if they need to change any of the habits. Usually, we would know what to do to become a better version of ourselves — no one need to tell us!

Second, we must make a resolution to change and become better version daily. Sticking to our resolution improves our self-esteem. When we respect our word to our own self, it shows in our interactions with others and that would make others respect our word too. This creates harmony and plants seeds of mutual success.

If one notices predominance of a streak of selfish interest in their thinking pattern, then one must deliberately focus on replacing it with the principle of ‘larger good’ and drive their decisions, big and small based on that.

Like the Jim Carrey movie — Yes Man, one of the key success habits is to say ‘yes’ to helping others anytime and spread the goodness without expecting anything in return. We can choose to help materially, or by devoting our time or sharing our knowledge. Be assured that nature has a strange way of returning what is due to you, not necessarily from the same person you helped!

Finally, focusing our energies one hundred percent into the efforts we can control and accepting the outcomes cheerfully — whether they meet our expectations or not is important aspect of developing a peaceful mind.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

The Covid-19 pandemic has clearly shown that the world is a living, breathing interconnected organism. Ripple effects of what one does in one part of the world will be felt in the opposite corner of the world, sooner or later. Our consumerist actions can cause icebergs to melt in the poles, make snakes & tigers extinct, cause exploitation of children, women and weaklings in sweat shops, make rainforests vanish. On a smaller scale, we can see increased thefts, violence and assaults in the neighborhood when extreme inequality on food will force people to go to all means.

VCs should focus on investing in socially conscious startups who will commit to make a difference at ground level to improve lives. VCs must see that startups are a way of not just creating wealth for shareholders but also can be used as vehicles for societal change. Investing in sustainable, ethical practices will create that positive spiral to uplift society from the deep challenges we all face — homelessness, climate change, poverty and hunger.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I am reachable on Linkedin and on my blog.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Mindful Eating: Rajesh Sengamedu’s Big Idea That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Neveo Mosser of Mosser Companies: How We Are Helping To Make Housing More Affordable

An Interview With Jason Hartman

Commitment and tenacity pay off. As a person of color, I have learned that to get ahead, you need to be able to bring tenacity and perseverance in the face of obstacles to the table and demonstrate unwavering commitment to your work. These traits are what have helped propel my career and driven me to always do better.

In many large cities in the US, there is a crisis caused by a shortage of affordable housing options. This has led to a host of social challenges. In this series called “How We Are Helping To Make Housing More Affordable” we are talking to successful business leaders, real estate leaders, and builders, who share the initiatives they are undertaking to create more affordable housing options in the US.

As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Neveo Mosser.

As Chief Executive Officer of Mosser Companies for over two decades, Neveo Mosser has built a game-changing real estate investment and property management firm that has thrived in America’s most competitive markets. Neveo is also the Co-Founder and Chairman of the company’s private equity unit, Mosser Capital, which manages real estate assets in some of California’s largest and most sought-after cities: San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles.

Neveo’s work has instilled in him a great sense of community commitment, which has manifested into numerous leadership roles within the public sector. For over 22 years, he served as Commissioner on the San Francisco Residential Rent Board, a mayoral-appointed position. He was also a member of the iREOC Board of Governors and the University of California Berkeley Fisher Center Policy Advisory Board and serves on the Executive Board of Directors of the San Francisco Apartment Association and the Coalition for Better Housing. Previously Neveo served as president for the San Francisco Apartment Association, the Coalition for Better Housing and as an executive board member for the California Apartment Association. He also has served on the board for African American Cultural Center of San Francisco, the Tenderloin Community Business Improvement District, and the Tenderloin YMCA.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

My pleasure. My name is Neveo Mosser. I am the Chief Executive Officer of Mosser Companies and Chairman of Mosser Capital Management. My family has been in the real estate business in San Francisco for my entire life. My father started Mosser 65 years ago.

I started as a janitor in the family business and worked my way through every area of the business. I spent 30 years living in the different buildings we owned to get a feel for our inventory and ensure we were offering a quality living experience. This has led me to my current position, where I’ve spent the past two decades building a game-changing real estate investment and property management firm that has thrived in one of America’s most competitive markets.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Living alongside and experiencing my father’s approach to life and his accomplishments, including his perspective, philanthropy and humility throughout his lifetime are, by far, the most interesting part not just of my life, but of my career. This was a man who grew up dirt poor and built an everlasting legacy. He was my greatest mentor and I have tried to emulate his positivity throughout my life and career.

One particularly interesting story that comes to mind is when my father chose to migrate to the Philippines to promote organic farming and the reforestation of denuded forests. He also worked to create education opportunities for the impoverished there. At that point, in the sunset of his life, he became a chief, or datu, of an indigenous group of people in the mountains on the island of Mindanao — he was not even of Philippine descent. There was nothing uninteresting about my father and the hundreds of lessons he imparted to me.

I am proud to be carrying on and growing the family business he began.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

I started to see the most success, both personally and professionally, when I truly leaned in on community development in my day-to-day work. In the mid-1990s Mosser purchased central towers in Downtown San Francisco and grew our footprint in the city’s Pacific Heights and Russian Hill neighborhoods. In the midst of this incredible community development, I was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Tenderloin Community Benefit District, which prioritized the goal of leading the evolution of the Tenderloin into a vibrant community for all.

I also joined the Board of Directors of the Tenderloin Museum, the San Francisco Apartment Association, the Coalition for Better Housing, and the California Apartment Association. Shortly thereafter, I was appointed CEO of Mosser Companies.

This tremendous community involvement that resulted from my daily efforts to better the many neighborhoods Mosser was in allowed me to successfully achieve what was and still is my main goal: creating better places for people to live by delivering caring management and community development.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My father was a tremendous influence on the way I do business. He taught us that we had a great responsibility to lead by example and give back to the community in support of our residents — who are as diverse as they come.

In the 1970s our father invested in a full block in the Western Addition with over 117 apartments. The neighborhood was predominantly African-American, and the properties were run-down, but he saw the great opportunity to improve the community both physically and operationally. Through upgrades and service, we were able to benefit both the residents and the neighborhood, and that is exactly what he did. He called it the Mosser Magic.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

The Alchemist, by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, resonated with me from the first read. In following the journey of shepherd boy Santiago, I learned the importance of thinking outside the box, thinking big, and working hard to achieve my goals. These lessons have turned into the pillars of success in my career and I am fortunate to have picked up this book early on in my life.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My father used to say, “the eye of the owner fattens the horse,” as he taught us benevolent capitalism. Because when businesses operate consciously, they can be an architect or a catalyst for making the environment a better place and contribute to the greater good. I have experienced this myself now as Mosser found we could do this by strategically investing in and improving neighborhoods that need some positive attention, with the goal for the community to win too. Our goal is to be good community stewards, lead by example, and partner with the community to make them better than we found them.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the shortage of affordable housing. Lack of affordable housing has been a problem for a long time in the United States. But it seems that it has gotten a lot worse over the past five years, particularly in the large cities. I know this is a huge topic, but for the benefit of our readers can you briefly explain to our readers what brought us to this place? Where did this crisis come from?

For years, there has been push and pull between landlords, policymakers, and cities, particularly with regard to land use regulations and restrictions on development. Because of that, there is a shortage of developable property that causes land costs to go up and creates scarcity of various development projects.

Currently, no state has an adequate supply of affordable and available homes for extremely low-income renters, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s 2021 GAP report. In order to address this problem, policymakers, landlords and cities must be able to join forces. In many ways, the COVID-19 crisis is forcing these groups to collaborate, and hopefully we start seeing some substantial change sooner than later.

Can you describe to our readers how your work is making an impact to address this crisis? Can you share some of the initiatives you are leading to help correct this issue?

Mosser seeks to create opportunities for policymakers and business leaders to come together and discuss and enact remedies to the housing crisis. We strive to offer our expertise in rent regulated housing to create more opportunities to convert rent regulated properties and market rate buildings into long term, affordable and covenant restricted housing. Moreover, our experience with rent regulated affordable workforce housing allows us to help lead California with strategy and on preserving true quality, well managed affordable housing.

We are also presently working with regulators on land use and density matters to achieve more potential program development that will improve and preserve naturally occurring affordable housing.

Can you share something about your work that makes you most proud? Is there a particular story or incident that you found most uplifting?

I am most proud of the differences we make to communities while keeping their cultural integrity intact. We work to empower tenants and residents in the transitional areas we work in and assist in bringing in our resources into these neighborhoods that are less desirable, making them more vibrant. We are a unicorn of the industry in the way we stand for diversity, inclusion and equity, and the way we are able to maintain individual neighborhoods’ character as we restore their vibrancy makes me proud.

In your opinion, what should other home builders do to further address these problems?

I believe it is less about home builders and more about regulators in terms of addressing these problems. In order to tackle the housing crisis, regulators must reduce the regulations on deed restricted buildings and enable more supply. This will help with both affordability and availability.

With current hurdles and restrictions in place, it is not possible to open up these properties for more uses, such as affordable housing, which stunts the movement to address the crisis. Cities change over time, and in order to best address this crisis we need to build housing across income levels.

We must address NIMBYism and its effect on reducing the ability to create smart density and move for smart and innovative building developments in and along transit nodes and retail areas. We, collectively, must thoroughly look at the 40-plus years of failed housing policy in many of our cities, which has resulted in displacement and a lack of affordable housing, and not repeat what hasn’t worked.

If you had the power to influence legislation, are there laws which you would like to see introduced that might help you in your work?

I would love to see laws that support smart growth in suburban communities with exceptional public transportation services or along transit corridors. These communities are home to untapped potential in terms of increasing housing development opportunities.

State Assemblyman Scott Weiner had introduced legislation pre-pandemic that made good sense in this regard. However, NIMBYism and local control arguments prevailed to stop the passage of what constituted a commonsense approach to increasing affordable housing opportunities across the state.

In the absence of legislation that supports development in these critical neighborhoods, it is challenging to create more affordable housing and help these communities grow and realize their full potential, which is what we are all about.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started leading my company” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Communication is key. In the absence of strong communication many messages and efforts are lost. I have learned this the hard way, as inaccurate assumptions have been made in the past about Mosser. Because of this, I have had to learn to work hard at stepping up my communications efforts to be more visible and transparent. In the past I would simply do the right thing but not talk about my actions, and now I am making an effort to make sure people know more about me and Mosser’s efforts.
  2. Commitment and tenacity pay off. As a person of color, I have learned that to get ahead, you need to be able to bring tenacity and perseverance in the face of obstacles to the table and demonstrate unwavering commitment to your work. These traits are what have helped propel my career and driven me to always do better.
  3. Do not place too much emphasis on pedigree. I have never subscribed to the notion of pedigree as a necessity, but the pressures to do so in business are imminent. Throughout my career, I have done my best to turn no blind eyes to the talent in front of me. For this reason, many minorities have found thriving careers at Mosser. Pedigree, nor image for that matter, is not a perquisite to working hard and making a difference in this world.
  4. Details matter. While in the midst of long work days and career stressors, it is easy to focus on the macro themes related to your business. But, diving deeper into those themes and soaking up as many smaller details as possible will serve you well. Focusing on the details has allowed me to learn how to manage top to bottom and inside out.
  5. No start is too small. As I mentioned earlier, I started my career as a janitor at Mosser. Obviously, this was no glamorous entry level job. But the lessons I learned and the values that were instilled in me during this time are what have made me who I am today. No first job is perfect, and no first job determines who you are and where you are headed.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I believe the most good can be done for the most people if more people could learn not to judge a book by its cover and give everyone a fair and equal chance. Throughout my career, I have sought to enact this approach whenever and wherever possible, and I hope that has inspired others to act the same and grow this movement for equality.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Barack Obama is an inspiration to me. He is a person of color who has been incredibly successful, relatable and all around a great person and I have often admired him throughout my career.

I have a long list of role models that are now deceased who I would have loved to have a meeting with and will forever admire.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Visit Mosser Living at www.mosserliving.com and find us on LinkedIn @Mosser Companies, Inc. and me on LinkedIn @Neveo Mosser.

Thank you for these great insights and for the time you spent with this interview. We wish you only continued success!


Neveo Mosser of Mosser Companies: How We Are Helping To Make Housing More Affordable was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Sandra Dungee Glenn of The Collective: How We Are Helping To Make Housing More Affordable

…Be authentic. Take the risk of being who I am and who we are. For The Collective, that means being unapologetically Black. I resist the “minority,” and “people of color” labels. Black people (African-Americans) have a unique and peculiar history in this country unlike anyone else. When we first started developing our marketing materials, the PR firm kept referring to us as “people of color.” We kept reinforcing the message that we are a Black-owned and led company and that we are focused on closing the racial wealth gap as it impacts the Black community. It’s our obligation. We have attracted a huge amount of support from outside the Black community, and I think it’s because people are drawn to authenticity.

In many large cities in the US, there is a crisis caused by a shortage of affordable housing options. This has led to a host of social challenges. In this series called “How We Are Helping To Make Housing More Affordable” we are talking to successful business leaders, real estate leaders, and builders, who share the initiatives they are undertaking to create more affordable housing options in the US.

As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Sandra Dungee Glenn.

Sandra Dungee Glenn is Founder and Convenor of The Collective, a group of Black real estate developers, investment professionals, and policy experts advancing social impact development in Philadelphia. Sandra is a seasoned leader with forty years of experience in public policy, electoral politics, education, and community organizing. She has served in executive level positions and is skilled in creating public engagement strategies and managing political and institutional relationships. Sandra is an experienced convener who brings diverse stakeholders together to attack multi-faceted, interdisciplinary urban issues.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Sandra! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I was born and raised in Philadelphia. My mother was a teacher and my father a pharmacist who owned his own drugstore, Dungee Pharmacy, from the 1950’s to the mid-1960’s. I was blessed to grow up in a pretty ideal environment; my neighborhood was almost 100% Black homeowners and solidly working class with a mix of professionals like my parents. Some things that made a deep impression on me were how the neighbors knew and cared for each other. On report card day, I remember being asked about my grades before I even got home. I remember my grandmother hosting the Block Club meetings and the care and pride that went into making sure the refreshments were “just right” for our neighbors. Finally, I remember my two next door neighbors, Mr. Ewell and Mr. Morgan, who were my grandmother’s age and took such pride in my father; they called him “Doc.” My dad represented what Black progress looked like to them. My childhood wasn’t perfect by a long shot — there was gang war violence and hardcore racism in housing and education — but my block was a refuge, providing protection, safety, and support. After college, I returned to Philadelphia and over the next forty years watched the disintegration of neighborhoods like mine. As a school board member, nonprofit CEO, charter school leader, and political operative, I’ve been on a mission of self-determination — more specifically for my people, but for fairness overall. Philadelphia is on a positive trajectory on many fronts, but it’s also moving toward a “tale of two cities.” To date, the prosperity isn’t benefiting Black businesses, neighborhoods, or residents. I launched The Collective, along with my partners, to disrupt this tale of two Philadelphias.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

This is a funny story. I think of my professional life in segments. One early segment was the twenty years I worked in electoral politics, working on candidate and voter mobilization campaigns. In the mid-1990’s, I was hired to lead the voter registration/mobilization effort on a mayoral re-election campaign. The candidate wanted me, but my direct boss didn’t. He wanted someone else, so he did everything he could to undermine me. First, he put me in a closet. Literally, my office was a closet. Next, he refused to approve a budget for my operation. I was expected to run a citywide voter registration campaign with no money. The funny thing is everything he tried backfired. When he assigned me to the closet, one of my colleagues said he wanted to be in there too. So, we shared our closet, and it became the most active part of our office suite because we were the staff members with the most volunteers. Second, when my candidate, the mayor, heard I had no budget, he intervened and personally approved my budget every week. Our voter registration drive was a success, the closet crew turned the vote out for our candidate, and by the end of the primary, my boss invited me into his big empty office to congratulate me for a job well done. God don’t like ugly.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

I don’t know if it’s a tipping point toward success, but it was a turning point for me taking ownership of my career and taking more risk. It started when I left a very secure position as senior adviser to a state senator to become CEO of a charter school in distress. The school had lost its founder due to a sudden death and the next leader got in despite having no administrative experience in education. It was tough, but after three and a half years, the school was in a much better position — functionally organized and financially sound. However, I made a decision because I could see that a different type of leader was needed to take them to the next level. It was the first time I felt in full control of my professional career. I had confidence in my judgement and faith in my decision. I had objectively evaluated the school’s needs against my strengths and weaknesses. I gave myself full credit for what I’d accomplished but was okay with admitting that they needed something different to move forward. The lesson was that I didn’t lose sight of the mission. I went into the job to “reset” the school and that’s what I did. Sometimes you have to know when to let go, even when it hurts.

The next example was when I once again left a secure job, this time to run for city council in Philadelphia. I didn’t win, but it ignited a passion and belief that I needed to be a “change agent” for reshaping the city. After the campaign I decided not to go back to the safe job. I took a risk and started working on the concept that grew into The Collective. Running for city council and launching The Collective were both about directing my energy toward “lighting a candle” instead of cursing the darkness.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have to say my mentor, former boss and friend, and former member of the United States Congress, Chaka Fattah. The story that best exemplifies his guidance and unselfish support is a rather long one.

In the early 2000’s, I was appointed to the School Reform Commission (SRC), the governing body for the School District of Philadelphia. It was a very volatile time politically between the Republican-controlled state government and a Democratic city. The Republicans were pushing an agenda to privatize the school district. They’d lined up Edison Schools, a for-profit company, to manage a portfolio of 100 of the district’s 240 schools. The community and local officials were strongly opposed to this, but the state Republicans controlled three of the five seats on the SRC. I was one of two mayoral appointees. My colleague and I were in the minority; plus, I was the only woman on the SRC. It was coming down to one key meeting where the vote would be taken. I was new, overwhelmed, and feeling a lot of pressure. As a minority board member, I didn’t have any staff at my disposal. But what I did have was a mentor and friend in Congress. He and his staff researched everything about Edison, a company with a very questionable history. The icing on the cake was that Chaka reviewed, packaged, and personally delivered the research to me the night before the big vote. I stayed up half the night and went to my office at daybreak to prepare my remarks. At the meeting I spent the better part of an hour putting the Edison story on the record. In the end, my partner (the other mayoral appointee) and I were able to beat back the takeover and offer a series of resolutions that added programs to many of our schools. Edison did end up with a small number of schools to manage, but there were enough controls in the contract that they were gone from the district within three years. I could not have handled the pressure without Chaka. His advice to me was, “Figure out where you stand, plant your feet, and stay there.” So, that’s what I did.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I have to say the Book of Nehemiah in the Bible. Nehemiah was a Jew in exile in Babylon. A Cupbearer to the King, he was in a comfortable position but was driven to return to Jerusalem to lead the rebuilding of the wall and his people who had been laid waste by the Persians and Babylonians. That’s the way I feel about the Black community in Philadelphia and in many Black communities around the country. We have been attacked and assaulted by systemic racism and white supremacy, which have laid waste to our communities and decimated our wealth. My personal circumstances have allowed me to live a privileged life in the midst of the struggle. However, I can’t separate myself from my people. Through community organizing and now The Collective, I’ve been an activist for change and self-determination.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Not to have participated in the actions and passions of one’s time is to be judged not to have lived.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes.

I’ve never been one to just talk about the problem; I’ve always worked on what I see as solutions. I’ve registered thousands of voters, run campaigns, been a labor and community organizer, dedicated twenty years to education reform and equity, run for office, and started The Collective. The common thread through all of these experiences was a passion to make change, progress, and a difference.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the shortage of affordable housing. Lack of affordable housing has been a problem for a long time in the United States. But it seems that it has gotten a lot worse over the past five years, particularly in the large cities. I know this is a huge topic, but for the benefit of our readers can you briefly explain to our readers what brought us to this place? Where did this crisis come from?

I will share some of the history that, as reported by the National Trust, has left Black neighborhoods with higher rates of demolition, undervalued housing, underfunded services, and reduced access to financing. The history includes our federal government taking a leading role in the development and promulgation of racist and discriminatory housing policies, such as redlining maps, restrictive covenants, and the outright denial of federally-insured mortgages to Black applicants. As recently as 2016, Black applicants in Philadelphia were 2.7 times more likely to be denied conventional mortgages than white applicants.

The history includes zoning ordinances that excluded Black residents from white neighborhoods while siting toxic dumps and incinerators near Black neighborhoods. As an example, this left neighborhoods in Southwest Philadelphia with two Superfund sites. The history includes an urban renewal policy that was more successful at dismantling Black neighborhoods than renewing them. It’s estimated that up to 10,000 people were removed from a stable West Philadelphia neighborhood, the Black Bottom, to make way for University City. It includes federal highway construction that cuts through communities and displaced a million people across the country. Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Will Bunch recently wrote about Nicetown, where 300 homes were demolished to make way for the Roosevelt Expressway, connecting a predominantly white Philadelphia neighborhood and adjacent suburb with Center City. Nicetown never fully recovered. Redlining, zoning, urban renewal, and highway construction were intentional policies that devalued Black neighborhoods, undermined Black property ownership, and diminished Black wealth. These were all major contributors to the racial wealth gap.

Today, that gap shows up as:

  • A 75% homeownership rate for Philadelphia’s white households, compared to 49% for Black households.
  • 75% of adults with bachelor’s degrees in Philadelphia’s higher-income neighborhoods, compared to 25% of adults in predominantly Black neighborhoods in West, Southwest, and North Philadelphia.
  • And last spring, the pandemic closed 41% of Black businesses compared to 17% of White businesses.

Can you describe to our readers how your work is making an impact to address this crisis? Can you share some of the initiatives you are leading to help correct this issue?

In many ways, Philadelphia is thriving. The real estate industry is thriving. But to date, the prosperity isn’t benefiting Black businesses, neighborhoods, or residents. The Collective is disrupting this tale of two Philadelphias. We are a group of experienced real estate developers, investment professionals, and public policy experts who came together in November 2019. We are Black-owned, operated, and led. We are committed to creating and growing real estate assets that produce attractive returns while increasing ownership and generating wealth within the Black community and for neighborhoods victimized by systemic racism. We have brought together stakeholders with the expertise, relationships, and power to attract investors, while protecting residents and cultivating vibrant, thriving neighborhoods. We have launched two separate entities with complementary missions. The Collective Network (TCN) is the social enterprise arm of The Collective. TCN will facilitate knowledge exchange, promote effective impact investment approaches, develop the evidence base for impact-driven investments for the real estate industry, and produce valuable tools and resources. TCN will work in tandem with The Collective Investment Group (TCIG), which provides communities and Black real estate developers in Philadelphia with access to capital that is traditionally not available to them.

Success looks like greater access to capital for Black real estate developers and entrepreneurs to grow and scale; an increased number of communities and individuals of color who are positively impacted by affordable housing projects and holistic neighborhood development; strengthened internal technical and operational capacity for Black real estate developers and entrepreneurs; a robust network of real estate developers, investment professionals, and public policy professionals; increased public awareness and policy coherence around racial equity issues and increased transparency and accountability across the stakeholder ecosystem through Impact Measurement and Management best practices.

Can you share something about your work that makes you most proud? Is there a particular story or incident that you found most uplifting?

The power of an idea. Since my partners and I shared the straightforward strategy behind The Collective, we have been amazed by the way it has been embraced. We launched the enterprise in January 2020. Since then, we have secured a wonderful partner/adviser, 17 Asset Management, garnered $90K in pro bono legal services, received hundreds of volunteer hours of public relations services, impacted local development policy, and are poised to close on our first $25 million of investment capital for our real estate developer members.

In your opinion, what should other home builders do to further address these problems?

Recognize, contract with, and invest in Black real estate professionals including developers, construction managers, contractors, architects, appraisers, engineers, etc.

Can you share three things that the community and society can do to help you address the root of this crisis? Can you give some examples?

  1. Value Black lives in the full context of humanity. In 2018, researchers from Gallup and the Brookings Institution published a report on the widespread devaluation of Black-owned property in the United States, which they discussed in a 2019 hearing before the House Financial Services Subcommittee. The report found that a home in a majority-Black neighborhood is likely to be valued for 23% less than a near-identical home in a majority-white neighborhood. It also determined this devaluation costs Black homeowners $156 billion in cumulative losses. Black Homeowners Face Discrimination in Appraisals — The New York Times (nytimes.com)
  2. Reparations. The case for reparations began in 1619 with the delivery of the first 20-plus enslaved Africans to the English territory in North America. It continues through 246 years of chattel slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow terror and subjugation, de facto and de jure segregation, to redlining, discrimination in employment, housing, and education, and the current efforts to disenfranchise Black voters, suppress citizen dissent, undervalue Black property, and deny equal access to services and resources. CitiBank’s 2020 report, Closing the Racial Inequality Gaps, asserts that $16 trillion would be added to US GDP if racial inequality had been erased 20 years ago.
  3. Embrace new models of community development that embrace the idea that builders and developers should be public health advocates, positively affecting the social determinants of health (SDOH) in the communities where they are building. I was impressed by the THRIVES Framework (healthyurbanism.net) and the words of Dr. Leon Caldwell, Founder of Ujima Developers and a member of The Collective who said, “… I believe public health should be the focus of community-centered real estate development. Neighborhoods can rebound and thrive when we’re invested in both the financial return on investment and the return on community. … The former is a common driver in the $6.2 billion residential real estate development industry. The latter is a long-term perspective. …” (West Philly-bred developer seeks ‘return on community’ when eyeing new projects — WHYY. WHYY.org)

If you had the power to influence legislation, are there laws which you would like to see introduced that might help you in your work?

Using the framework of the federal Opportunity Zone (OZ) legislation which allows investors to defer for up to seven years any capital gains taxes on the money they invest in business or real estate development projects in any one of over 8,700 opportunity zones around the country. Most of the zones correlate with census tracts that are undercapitalized. After 10 years, the investor can cash out and not owe any taxes on the profits. I would require that every OZ project demonstrate a measurable improvement in at least five social determinants of health for the population in residence at the beginning of the OZ period AND require the dollars to be invested into businesses and projects that reflect the majority population in the zones. The Economic Innovation Group estimates it as a $6 trillion market. (Opportunity Zones: Tapping into a $6 Trillion Market — Economic Innovation Group (eig.org))

The median family income in OZs is 49,900 compared to $77,300 nationally. The average homeownership rate in an OZ is 45% compared to 64% nationwide. Black Americans are overrepresented in OZs, making up 23% of the population compared to 12% of the national population. (Opportunity Zones Facts and Figures — Economic Innovation Group). Harnessing $6 trillion in targeted capital not dependent on government spending into under-resourced communities, with a very significant amount flowing to Black and brown entrepreneurs, would do more to close the racial wealth gap than any current government program.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started leading my company” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. As the founder, I am the keeper of the mission and purpose. Our mission is to use real estate development to create and grow assets that increase ownership and generate wealth within the Black community. We are committed to cultivating a pipeline of Black developers whose projects deliver financial returns and positive social impact. However, it is very easy to default to projects that deliver the highest and fastest return to investors. Just this week, I was approached by a well-connected developer who wants to use the ethos of The Collective to attract investors. We’re not interested because there is no serious commitment to community-centered development.
  2. The Collective lives with me 24/7. To be most impactful and successful, I’m constantly thinking about what we are doing and what we could or should be doing, talking about the company to clarify and better define the work, and learning about reports, best practices, trends, and more. I just enrolled in a six-week course, “Introduction to The Quadruple Bottom Line of Real Estate Development.”
  3. Be authentic. Take the risk of being who I am and who we are. For The Collective, that means being unapologetically Black. I resist the “minority,” and “people of color” labels. Black people (African-Americans) have a unique and peculiar history in this country unlike anyone else. When we first started developing our marketing materials, the PR firm kept referring to us as “people of color.” We kept reinforcing the message that we are a Black-owned and led company and that we are focused on closing the racial wealth gap as it impacts the Black community. It’s our obligation. We have attracted a huge amount of support from outside the Black community, and I think it’s because people are drawn to authenticity.
  4. The intangibles matter most. Building a team around the intangibles of trust, integrity, commitment, and honesty is at least twice as important as technical skills. Our strategic partner, 17 Asset Management (17AM), an impact finance firm, has contributed thousands of unpaid hours to launching The Collective. Several months ago, one of their team members tried to convince 17AM firm partners that they should demand a bigger stake in The Collective. Our partners’ response was swift and decisive: they severed relations with the team member, informed us of the situation, and made internal changes to avoid a repeated occurrence. Going through those events strengthened our relationship and reinforced our shared commitment to the mission.
  5. Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. I have a working knowledge of public finance and capital projects in the public sector, but I knew very little about real estate development in the private sector. I am so thankful that I was led to find and connect with people who know what I don’t. One of my partners, Tayyib Smith, is a developer who owns several businesses, and my other partner, Steven Sanders, has been in institutional investing for over 30 years. His company has $1.8 billion under management. They bring a wealth of experience and knowledge in finance, investing, and development. What I have is the vision and a persuasive personality. After several months of talking to them and dragging them with me to talk to other people, the vision caught fire.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

An international Reparations movement. There is some awareness in the U.S. of the debt owed the Indigenous people and the descendants of enslaved Africans, but when I think about the people of Haiti, South Africa, Ireland, the Congo, and so many other places who have had their land stripped, their resources taken, and their labor de-valued, it calls for reckoning and restoration on a global scale.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

This may sound like a strange choice, however the person I’d like to meet is Doctor Joel Fuhrman, who wrote a book called “Super Immunity.” It really changed my life because it changed the way I eat in a fundamental way, and it changed my understanding of how my body uses food. I’ve always tried to be a healthy eater, staying away from red meat. I gave that up thirty years ago. I don’t eat much poultry; I’m basically a pescatarian. I keep a vegan base to my diet. But “Super Immunity” gave me a whole new understanding of how food works on a biochemical and microbiological level. It made so much sense to me. I think if we approach healthy eating from a positive direction, stop telling people what they can’t do and promote how to have a life-sustaining, life-prolonging and disease-free life, it would be much more effective. As African-Americans, we are disproportionately dying from hypertension, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and cancer. I believe, and many people believe, that the roots are not only our environment, but in our diet. Dr. Fuhrman takes a deep dive into how critical micronutrients are and why. How as Americans, we can overeat yet starve ourselves. I think it’s critical that we get a better understanding of this. It would be fascinating to have a conversation with Dr. Fuhrman. We could brainstorm how we create a national network of “Eat to Live” food ambassadors who are evangelizing his message across the country. It’s educated consumers who will change the food industry and the health industry. So, Dr. Fuhrman would be my choice for a person I would love to meet. I think it would be life-changing to get his message out into more of the mainstream.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

www.thecollectivephl.com

https://www.linkedin.com/SandraDungeeGlenn

https://www.facebook.com/sandra.d.glenn/

This was very meaningful, thank you so much, and we wish you only continued success.


Sandra Dungee Glenn of The Collective: How We Are Helping To Make Housing More Affordable was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Rising Through Resilience: Jennifer Blanton of FAME Performing Arts On The Five Things You Can Do…

Rising Through Resilience: Jennifer Blanton of FAME Performing Arts On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

Hit the pause button — You don’t want to be rushed in to making a bad decision. When we are emotional, we may make a wrong decision. Emotions greatly affect our decision-making skills. It’s not always in a negative way, you want to make sure that your decision is the right one for you. I strongly dislike complaints. I know they’re important, I still take them personally. We don’t get them very often, but when they come, I must hit the pause button or else I react emotionally. That takes a toll on my overall stress level. Pausing allows me to process what is happening so I can listen to myself and plan.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Blanton.

Jennifer is the owner of FAME Performing Arts, a performing arts after school program based in Charleston, SC. After suffering a career ending injury early in her career, Jennifer taught herself how to sing again and developed a deep love for teaching. Jennifer was then diagnosed with breast cancer in the middle of a pandemic while trying to save a business that was losing clients almost daily and homeschooled 4 children under the age of 6.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

I had a normal childhood in a middle class family, filled with memories of family time, dance and music recitals, beach trips, and sporting events. I took piano lessons, sang in choir, and participated in community theater. I was encouraged from a young age to perform, I had plenty of opportunities to develop my abilities. I went on to study at Baltimore School for the Arts, Shenandoah Conservatory, and New England Conservatory, all for classical voice.

I was born with a birth defect- pectus excavatum. My first surgery was at the age of 6. I went on to have 5 more surgeries into my early twenties. It started to become an issue early in college. After one surgery, I was left with a broken sternum, a chest full of scar tissue, and 50% lung capacity. Singing was not an option. But what I learned over the next several years shaped who I am today as a business owner.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I am living it right now. Once the pandemic started, I knew we could get through it if we just kept going. We had to maintain consistency for our students, and I had to keep the business open, even if by the skin of my teeth. Once I felt like we made it past the hard stuff, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. While everyone was getting ready for 2020 to end, I was sitting in a very cold room being infused with lifesaving drugs, hopeful I would see 2021. My diagnosis and treatment forced me to step away. This allowed others to rise and fill in the gaps. I thought I had the right team during the pandemic, but truthfully, the ones that have been with me during my treatment have become the most supportive staff I could have ever wanted.

This has allowed me to explore leading the business and focusing on the big picture. It’s been so difficult to let go, but we wouldn’t be experiencing the growth we are had I not stepped away.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We stand out because we have a safe space where students can just ‘be’. We help them find their ‘voice’ through teaching them how to discover their confidence. The one-on-one attention our students receive creates a mentorship that can last forever. We often have students get back in touch with us to let us know how much we meant to them. Most recently I had a student send me a note explaining how her voice lessons taught her the confidence she needed to be an instructor in her field. She said, “I would have never been able to get up in front of a classroom of adults to speak, let alone teach.” We have several stories exactly like this one.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

There really are so many people, I am grateful for dozens of people that have helped me. The biggest shift that put me on the path I am on today was put in place by my first business coach Michelle Markwart Deveaux of The Speakeasy Cooperative. She challenged me in the most loving and kind way. I never felt like I had to have the right answers or even any answers. She created a safe space for me to learn who I was as a business owner.

So many things were discussed in our sessions, one that sticks in my mind was early on. I was giving her a more detailed version of my background, she told me I had to share it. Up to that point I avoided talking about it, it’s easy for me to hide it. In my field, it isn’t about the teacher- it is about what we can do for our students. I never thought my story was needed. As I lived on, I realized that if I were to stay silent, I may miss an opportunity to encourage someone to keep fighting, to believe in themselves when it feels like no one else is, to keep going. If you’re suffering silently, you don’t have to do it alone.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience is never giving up on your vision, no matter what comes your way. It means staying flexible, receiving information when it is time, and being flexible with your approach while staying true to yourself.

Being self-aware is an important characteristic of people that are resilient. I have very strong intuition that I follow and know exactly what to do 100% of the time. I may not want to, but I know.

Having self-control and staying calm under stress is important as a resilient leader. If the pandemic has shown us anything, it is that community is important. I was thrown into the position of leading everyone through a traumatic experience. I had to stay calm and focused under an intense amount of stress. Even though I was also living through the same trauma, I had to lead everyone through.

Staying optimistic through trials is important. You will always be faced with challenges. Having the ability to stay optimistic will open a new level of confidence that is needed as a leader.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

My dad contracted West Nile Virus from a mosquito bite in his front yard in Maryland in 2011. He was very sick very fast. He suffered meningitis, encephalitis, heart attacks, lungs collapsing, neurological damage, depression, Covid, and now cancer. He keeps fighting and is an incredible example of resilience. He was left unable to walk but now 10 years after his diagnosis, he’s still working on his rehab and believes he will walk one day. His resilience, amongst chaos, is inspiring to me.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

I am rarely told something isn’t possible because of how many times I prove people wrong. I was told at a young age that I wouldn’t be able to physically carry babies because of how my body was after many surgeries, specifically my rib cage. I was told I wouldn’t be able to breath with the added weight of a baby. It wasn’t a big deal because I didn’t want babies, at least not until I met my husband. I knew I wanted to have his babies. With the help of an amazing OB and pulmonologist, I not only carried a baby, I carried four babies in four years. I hated being pregnant, but I love those babies!

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

My breast cancer diagnosis has been the greatest setback I have experienced. I am bouncing back stronger, in different ways. Because it forced me to step back, I was able to see the holes in the business. This allowed me to not only see them but start fixing them. Prior to the diagnosis, I felt like I was always putting fires out. I wasn’t creating the environment I would want as a teacher, but I had no brain space to adjust this. Now that I have had time to think, I am coming back full force, but shifting my focus to working on the business vs in the business.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

My birth defect was never an issue till my late teens into my early twenties. My entire life I was groomed to be a performer, specifically classical voice. I started seriously training in college, where my deep love for classical music blossomed. My most traumatic surgery was in between my sophomore and junior year where my sternum was broken. I was left unable to sing for over a year. As I gained strength, I suffered from my inability to sing freely like I had known for my entire life. My lovely teachers did their best, but no one knew what to do with me. I have 50% lung capacity and could barely stand up long enough for a voice lesson. I tried and tried but could not get back to where I was. After years of trying, I stopped. I left music. That was one of my darkest years. I decided to start singing again, this time I had to figure out how to make it work within my limitations. I kept going, never giving up. I learned so much about the voice and how trauma greatly affects it. I started paying attention to my body, not just the sound of voice. Through my own adaptation of vocal pedagogy, I learned how my body could produce a sound. To this day, I am told by Drs that they don’t understand how I can even sing with my physical limitations. I believe it is my resilience and believing that there is so much we still don’t know about the body. I went from being one of the top singers in my program, to barely being able to sing a few seconds, to now teaching young students how to sing by being acutely aware of their bodies. And I am still performing today too!

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

Hit the pause button

You don’t want to be rushed in to making a bad decision. When we are emotional, we may make a wrong decision. Emotions greatly affect our decision-making skills. It’s not always in a negative way, you want to make sure that your decision is the right one for you. I strongly dislike complaints. I know they’re important, I still take them personally. We don’t get them very often, but when they come, I must hit the pause button or else I react emotionally. That takes a toll on my overall stress level. Pausing allows me to process what is happening so I can listen to myself and plan.

Listen to yourself

When you know, you know. Your instinct is there for a reason, do not ignore it. The biggest mistakes I have made are always because I ignored my gut. I once hired a teacher that on paper was amazing. For some reason, I never trusted them. They never truly bought in to the concept of the studio. When they left, many of their students followed. This is not typical for teachers that buy into the studio concept because the students become a part of the community we’ve built. We also take care of the hassle of finding another teacher and place them with another great teacher. I knew from the beginning they weren’t the right fit, and I lost big. But with a plan in place, we made it up with a new teacher and new students within 6 months.

Make a plan

When you’re faced with what may feel impossible to overcome, having a plan gives you direction. It may take time for that to show itself, but it will. For me, the most important part of planning is being patient with myself. I am the type of person that must think, a lot. For things to go smoothly, I plan at least 3 months in advance. I think through every angle and possible path. My plan becomes my partner.

Rest

Trauma shows up in all forms, it doesn’t have to be something as serious as cancer. It could be suddenly having to homeschool your kids during a pandemic, a friend ghosting you, or a client giving you feedback that you take too personally. Giving yourself time to rest and process your emotions is so important for your emotional stability.

Be open to change

Any time you experience something that flexes your “resilience” muscles, you are given an opportunity to change. If you’re open to receiving new information and thoughts, you may surprise yourself. My biggest challenge is management. It is a challenge because I have extremely high standards and expect everyone else to share those same standards, which is so selfish of me! Through my own continuing education, I have learned how important it is to understand your employee’s needs. This may seem like a no brainer, but to implement this into my business has been a huge challenge for me. It’s been slow, which is why we suffered at first. Once I became open to change within myself, I was then able to see change within the staff.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Your voice can change the world. Everyone has a story, everyone has challenges, the more we share them, the more we help others. Going through breast cancer opened my eyes to the fact that everyone suffers in some way, kindness and love to all is always the answer.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Marcus Lemonis, hands down, one of the most supportive entrepreneurs I follow. I love how he interacts with business owners; he cares about the person first, business second. He is so inspiring to me.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.instagram.com/fameperforms/

https://www.facebook.com/FamePerforms/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Rising Through Resilience: Jennifer Blanton of FAME Performing Arts On The Five Things You Can Do… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Kirk Goins of Luminator Technology Group On How Their Technological Innovation…

The Future Is Now: Kirk Goins of Luminator Technology Group On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

It’s a marathon not a sprint. Enjoy the people, opportunities and experiences as you go thru your working career. Most of us are going to work for 40+ years…should be great fun along the way.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kirk Goins.

Kirk Goins is CEO of Luminator Technology Group (Luminator), a global manufacturer of technology, communication and safety solutions for mass transit applications. Founded in 1928, Luminator supports transit bus and rail car manufacturers and public transit operators around the world with customers in more than 85 countries.

Under Goins’s leadership, the organization has successfully merged dozens of reputable worldwide brands. By leveraging Luminator’s extensive engineering resources, Goins has led the organization in developing integrated best-in-class solutions for on and off-board passenger information, video security, lighting and other safety solutions designed to increase the safety, efficiency, and intelligence of transit operations.

Goins has over 30 years of experience in industrial automation and technology, previously serving as CEO for the Paslin Company, a turnkey systems integrator focused on robotic automation in the automotive market. Goins also served as North American CEO for manufacturing assembly company Comau Inc. and held multiple senior executive roles at robotics manufacturer ABB Inc. Goins graduated from Michigan State University with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and participated in a business leadership program at through IMD Business School.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

In 1986, I graduated from Michigan State University with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. After school I worked in factory automation where I really enjoyed the process of applying technology to solve manufacturing solutions. In 2010 I attended an IMD business leadership program that provided a different lens in which to view a business beyond technology. Now, with over 30 years of experience in industrial automation and technology roles, I’ve had the opportunity to hold multiple leadership positions within ABB Robotics and Low Voltage Divisions, serving as North American CEO of Comau and Head of Body and White businesses.

Prior to joining Luminator Technology Group (Luminator), a global manufacturer of technology, communication, and safety solutions for mass transit applications, I served as CEO for the Paslin Company, a turnkey systems integrator focused on robotic automation in the automotive market. I’ve been with Luminator for about five years.

Founded in 1928, Luminator supports transit bus and rail car manufacturers and public transit operators in more than 85 countries. With extensive engineering capacity, we have developed and integrated best-in-class solutions for on and off-board passenger information, video security, lighting, air treatment and other solutions — all designed to increase the safety, efficiency, and intelligence of transit operations.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I’ve had the pleasure to work with many great people, companies and customers throughout my career. There have been a number of successes, some bruising failures and the opportunity to learn from all of them. I’m not sure this is the most interesting story, but one story that seems to stick out in my mind is being on a very large project that was running late and not functioning to the client’s satisfaction. There were many reasons the project was behind but what has stuck with me about the project, was one particular moment — we’d been on site since about 6:30 AM and it was now 11:00 PM…we were planning the next day’s work sitting in a jobsite trailer drinking maybe the worst coffee you can imagine — eating snack chips out of unused coffee filters…and not a single one of those team members was complaining. We were making progress, unified in our goals and focused on completing the task at hand. It’s very special when you get a whole team bought into the mission — a team can really accomplish anything.

Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people? How do you think this might change the world?

Luminator has an extensive product roadmap, with a common theme of making technology easier for transit authorities to deploy, operate and manage. We accomplish this by reducing cost of ownership and integrating solutions. Our objective is to reduce friction with technologies, so that transit operators can focus on their primary goal of transporting passengers. AI technology is the cutting-edge technology that is enabling us to automate the collection of data, propagate information to passengers in real-time, and provide this data back to transit operators, to better improve services.

Through the pandemic it became apparent that more needs to be done to protect essential workers and those that rely upon public transportation to keep our cities in motion and by supplying solutions that support efficiencies through transit operations, we can help support this vital infrastructure. Earlier this year we launched a new air treatment solution which is designed specifically to reduce the transmission of airborne virus — such as COVID-19 — in the air, where it is most dangerous. In enclosed transit environments, where social distancing is not feasible other technologies like surface disinfectants, UV-lights and air filters do little for person-to-person transmission. Using an antimicrobial air treatment our system has proven to kill over 98% of COVID-19 in 30 seconds. We believe this will be a game-changer for essential transportation services as we navigate through the current pandemic and those variants and future viruses that may emerge.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

We are implementing all our technologies with security and privacy in mind, to avoid these drawbacks. For example, using AI with our video recording system — while original video footage captured by our video security system is maintained according to local regulations, the AI algorithm uses data converted to remove identification features, and using shapes instead of actual images of people to perform the analytics. So, while our capabilities may be futuristic, their implementations and use cases are far from the dystopian narratives of “Black Mirror,” and we comply with best practices and the latest developments regarding privacy and IT security standards. Likewise, with the air treatment system, we have partnered with an expert in the field — Grignard Pure. Due to the extensive testing, long-term use cases, and because EPA approval is required for the purchase and sale, we are confident that we are supplying a solution to transit that is effective and safe.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Many years ago, through a series of acquisitions globally, we realized the benefit that our technology development centers — located around the world could provide to the transportation market by implementing best practices and processes under one umbrella. This enables the transit agencies in the U.S. and around the world to integrate their transit solutions, gain insights from those integrated sources of data and passenger information and use those insights to better serve and promote mobility in their local communities. Facilitating these common technology development efforts and defining a global roadmap has been my main leadership focus at Luminator.

This methodology was applied to our initiative for finding the best COVID-19 solution for transit. Our technology development centers across the globe were tasked with exploring different solutions. The tipping point for the breakthrough of our Renew Air Treatment came through our partnership with Grignard Pure. Their science team of public health experts were adamant from the start of the pandemic that airborne transmission was the biggest threat. With the majority of solutions only effective on surfaces, this was a tipping point in our development of the technology for distributing an aerosol antimicrobial treatment. In reviewing other technologies, like UV lights and applying them to real-world applications, like using it on a transit bus or train, we felt it was a far less effective solution than the airborne solution we settled on developing. This breakthrough was validated in later months when public health officials confirmed the need for airborne solutions.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

AI technology is coming, and we expect transit technology to adopt it quickly. Particularly during the pandemic, we have seen many examples of how information, like capacity — allowing transit riders the ability to determine if they can socially distance on a given bus or train, has shown to have immediate tangible benefits to transit authorities — promoting the ability to safely return ridership. In the case of air treatment, EPA approval is required and currently this is happening at the state level. Currently this is limited and applies to transit applications, some government buildings and a handful of other industries. We are working with Grignard Pure to apply for nationwide approval which will enable transit agencies, and other facilities and businesses to utilize Grignard Pure — which will be an enormously helpful tool to fight the spread of COVID-19.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

Our solutions are regularly featured in transit trade publications, demonstrations are slowly returning as conferences and exhibitions come back online. While travel was restricted during the pandemic, our marketing strategies shifted — much like everyone else. Explainer videos and instructional webinars have been critical to communicate the value proposition of all our new solutions, particularly those associated with helping transit return to safe operations. As an international company, we have the advantage of being able to share these messages across the globe.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

You are right- no one is successful alone. There are too many people to mention but I’ve always had tremendous support from my family and especially my father who passed away last year. When I first started working as a professional, my father would call my desk phone around 6 AM…if I didn’t answer, he’d ask me that day or later that night what I was doing that caused me to be late? I’m generally an early riser to this day partially due to those interactions.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Mass transit is in itself a public service designed to make the world better and to help our communities and grow and thrive. As CEO of Luminator, I guide the company in its efforts to bring advanced transit technology solutions into the world and put them to the hands of transit agencies and operators. We see the benefits of these transit technologies every day, from passengers that use ADA-compliant technologies to better access transit and passenger information systems to get them where they are going safely and on time to an overall improvement of the experience of passengers — which will hopefully lead to increased ridership and less reliance on single occupancy vehicles.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. It’s a marathon not a sprint. Enjoy the people, opportunities and experiences as you go thru your working career. Most of us are going to work for 40+ years…should be great fun along the way.

2. The team must come first. We all know we need teamwork, and to be part of the team, but sometimes we don’t appreciate what we could do/change/say or not say that would improve how well our team can exist and create together.

3. Leave on time. Get in early, get your stuff done, dedicate a little out of office time for reading or catching up, but leave on time and do something important for you and the people you care about.

4. Take care of yourself mentally and physically. No one can do this for you and only you can decide to do it! The impact on family, friends, and work associates is huge. The impact on your satisfaction is even greater.

5. Don’t be afraid to try something…maybe it doesn’t work out right, but you can always learn and grow from a new opportunity.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Transforming mass transit is the perfect arena in which to inspire a global movement because it touches all of our lives. Mass transit riders come from every region, race, class, gender, and ethnicity, and they all deserve a safe and efficient transit experience. At Luminator, we have a vision of a safer, more accessible future for transit — one that acknowledges the vital role transit plays within all our communities, cities and countries. Mass Transit should be the first transportation method of choice for all of us.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Life is about winning~ but the score is not just measured in terms of profitability or economic rewards…it’s measured in effort, support, impact and enjoyment given to those you interact with and have the opportunity to share experiences with.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

The opportunity to invest in transit technology has never been more important or promising as it is now. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we must be able to rely upon transportation services to support essential workers. Technology that helps keep us safe and connected as we complete our most essential tasks, like going to work and buying groceries is critical to our well-being and investing in it provides a benefit to society to support mobility throughout our communities.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Readers can follow me on LinkedIn and can follow Luminator on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: Kirk Goins of Luminator Technology Group On How Their Technological Innovation… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Beat Huesler and Tom McKeogh of Oppenheim Architecture On How Their…

The Future Is Now: Beat Huesler and Tom McKeogh of Oppenheim Architecture On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up Architecture

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

McKeogh: Our studio has always been fascinated with ways in which we can make architecture more accessible to a wider audience. In every project, whether it’s a private home or urban development, we aim to find ways in which we can closely connect with our client and the eventual end users of the project.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Beat Huesler, along with Tom McKeogh.

A licensed architect with over 28 years of professional experience, Beat Huesler is the European partner of Chad Oppenheim — in 2009, the two founded Oppenheim Architecture + Design Europe, based in Basel, Switzerland.

Huesler heads the European studio, managing a senior architectural team to deliver projects in urban and remote locations around the world. His extensive construction and technical knowledge make the studio highly responsive to the available resources and industry practices in any specific location. An ability to work collaboratively with local architects, builders, and craftspeople leads to buildings that are made for their environments and loved by their communities.

Tom McKeogh is Studio Leader at Oppenheim Architecture + Design Europe, working closely with Beat Huesler on work in Europe and the Middle East.

As Studio Leader, McKeogh is responsible for creative direction, where he initiates and develops designs and documentation for all phases of a project. He is also responsible for creating and refining visual practices such as drawing, visualization and VR as part of the design process.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Beat Huesler: I believe I have an obsession with detail. I have always loved art — even as a child, I’d find myself sketching whenever it was possible to do so. Over the years, I have challenged myself to add more detail, be more creative and turn ordinary ideas into works of art.

In time, I completed a four-year technical drawing apprenticeship in Basel. My original focus on detailing embedded a deep passion for function — the placement, form, and features of a design must reflect its intended use, and the people who use it. I’d reflect on a number of concepts — from design and planning, to materials and construction, to sustainability and energy use. With these ideas circulating in my mind, I looked to study architecture and design at Cornell University.

Tom McKeogh: Architecture initially fascinated me with its potential to overcome crucial issues of our time across different scales of the built, natural and virtual environments. Advances in information, manufacturing, material technologies and visualization have created a whole new way of viewing and creating spaces that are technologically advanced, while also being meaningful, poetic, and deeply rooted in their place.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

McKeogh: Following my graduation from Columbia, I was asked to relocate to Jakarta to collaborate with a local firm — they were developing hospitality projects at a number of beautiful sites in Bali. I recall meeting with Beat on a rocky cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean, which happened to be the site of a potential project. It was my role to ensure that he was educated — but mostly entertained — in the ways of working in Bali. I particularly recall Beat’s laser focus on detail while walking the site — within a few hours under the blazing sun, he had intricately identified the various flora, fauna, rock types and microclimates.

However, one thing was missing. Beat asserted that we had to visit the site at dawn to better feel and understand the spirit of place. The next morning around 4:30 AM, we traversed to the clifftop with the client, and I recall thinking that this dedication to the spirit of a place just may be something worth being a part of — despite the sleep deprivation. I’ve carried this with me throughout my career — 10 years later, I’m still seeking out that particular, unique spirit of every space and site that we find ourselves in.

Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

McKeogh: Our studio has always been fascinated with ways in which we can make architecture more accessible to a wider audience. In every project, whether it’s a private home or urban development, we aim to find ways in which we can closely connect with our client and the eventual end users of the project.

We noticed a certain phenomena that was heightened by the global pandemic — many artists and curators made the transition to online platforms with the hope of displaying their artwork to the public when there were very few opportunities to do so in physical space.

Over the last few months, we designed the digital gallery space for the debut exhibition of Minoru Onoda: Through another Lens. Our firm was challenged to develop an immersive, simulated space that could meet the demands of an expanding online art market.

Huesler: While most online viewing rooms have only depicted two-dimensional art, the Anne Mosseri-Marlio Virtual Gallery incorporates a sense of heightened realism, brought to life through virtual reality effects from The Boundary and Oppenheim Architecture’s innovative design capabilities. Engaging architects to develop a virtual space is typically unheard of in the gallery world.

We viewed this project as an opportunity to authentically share amazing art and architecture, while bridging the gap between simulated reality and our physical existence. The purpose behind the virtual gallery goes beyond restrictions brought on by the pandemic — it centers on accessibility for all. When we spoke with the gallery’s director to initiate the design process, we reflected on ways to make the space more meaningful — how can we make this feel as interactive, immersive and inclusive as possible?

How do you think this might change the world?

Huesler: The concept of appointing architects to design virtual, three-dimensional spaces works to achieve two objectives, both of which relate in a number of ways.

In creating a digital space for the Anne Mosseri-Marlio Virtual Gallery, we helped to amplify the dedication to the artist, and the appreciation of the discipline and those that engage with it. Rising above the standard features of an online gallery, we developed the space with meticulous attention to detail and realism — from the floor to the ceiling, the windows to the walls, and the size to scale. Beyond that, the space is able to host different mediums of art, from canvases to sculptures.

The gallery bears an essence of freedom unlike any other, in resemblance to a physical space. Providing comfort and conversation among art and architecture, the online viewing experience encourages visitors to see the three-dimensionality and details of each work — helping to lead the way for expansion to different, multidimensional artistic mediums in the future.

McKeogh: In the same breath, it’s important to note that virtual events enable expanded inclusivity when it comes to participation. The ability to view art and understand its meaning should be a welcoming, accessible experience for enthusiasts and observers. Through the virtual gallery, all visitors have the ability to enter through the door and enjoy the works being presented.

Combining the two objectives, artists and enthusiasts are provided with the opportunity to experience reality through another lens. One cannot doubt that architecture has the power to impact art, as well as other industries, in a meaningful way.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

McKeogh: “Black Mirror” is an eerie, dystopic and captivating take on the potential of our current condition. Technologies such as VR, AR, wearables and the internet of things do seem to be pointing to a world where technology will envelop every aspect of our lives, and we are presented with visions of the future where the physical and virtual realities have merged.

It’s super important that we question the role architecture (and landscape) should play in this world of new priorities. As we all spend more time online, can we elevate virtual spaces to be truly impactful, engaging and thoughtful? How can we somehow reconnect to the beauty of the world around us through virtual spaces?

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Huesler: The ongoing pandemic has influenced organizations to transition many events and occurrences that were originally in-person to virtual settings. Virtual events remove geographic and financial barriers to attending an event, but many don’t promote a feeling of contentment or humanity. Around the world, individuals have found fault in the countless online affairs that seldom varied in production, representation and content.

Digital accessibility is important to ensure that all attendees are able to participate and engage effectively, ushering in an unprecedented experience that appears realistic and enhances your perspective.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

McKeogh: We believe that designers have to push the boundaries of what’s expected in architecture. One way to achieve this is through collaboration with people outside, or on the fringes of, architecture. Such fruitful partnerships, such as those with The Boundary and Anne Mosseri-Marlio Virtual Gallery, help us refine and rethink our work. While we may not be experts in art curation or UI design, we are able to channel and translate our interactions with these realms into better design.

Huesler: It’s highly important we look at what has been done in the past, within our own firms and the industry as a whole, so that we may continue to develop spaces that have yet to be seen.

While it is dependent on the complexity, every major project has multiple layers of professionals involved. Teams that work together and creatively problem-solve, despite the differences in discipline, create an environment of inclusiveness and healthy collaboration that makes the project a success for all.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

Huesler: Two disciplines meet at the center of this project — art and architectural design. Our primary efforts have been based around connecting with art and architecture lovers, to bring them the joy of these mediums that they may have missed over the past year.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

McKeogh: Though it may sound saccharine, we are immensely grateful for our team members. Oppenheim Architecture is a collaborative studio — we revel in quality ideas, thoughtful engagement and active contribution. More than that, we hire exceptional people from around the world. Without our team, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Huesler: Looking at my previous successes, I compile what I know — through education and experience — to produce meaningful moments that are both impactful and contemplative. People all around the globe are calling for balance among society and the natural world. It is through our work that we strive for a peaceful coexistence between built and natural surroundings.

We craft designs by carefully balancing the needs of the individual and the attributes of the location. However, our work is not complete without collaboration — an ability to work collaboratively with local architects, builders, and craftspeople leads to buildings that are made for their environments and loved by their communities.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

McKeogh: While these statements are not things I wish I was told before I became an architect, they have proven to be good personal mottos and ideals:

  1. Employ young people: They keep ideas fresh.
  2. Have non-architect friends: They keep things real.
  3. Read everything: It’s a good habit to grasp — from design thinking to preparing contracts.
  4. Whether it is a project or new business relationship, remember that it’s going to be great.
  5. However, it’s just as important to remember that it’s not going to be great unless we work hard and make it the best it can possibly be.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

McKeogh: Empathy. It sounds crazy, I know.

As architects, it’s imperative that we understand and translate the priorities of stakeholders, clients and collaborators on a day to day basis. However, we are more than that — we are all humans at the end of the day. We are the most connected species that roam the planet, with the ability to instantaneously experience the world beyond our physical limits through handheld devices. Somehow, we are also the most disconnected — alienated from each other and our environment as we become more dependent on our devices.

Designing with empathy is one thing — however, living with empathy is a necessity for our humanity.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

McKeogh: Marcel Duchamp once said, “What art is, in reality, is this missing link, not the links which exist. It’s not what you see that is art; art is the gap.” In many ways, architecture operates in a similar fashion — we seek to find meaning in these spaces in between. It’s a quote we live by, every single day.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Huesler: The belief that virtual spaces are transforming the future has become intensified in the face of the pandemic. Yet, we have the power to alter their significance and need, past the limitations of COVID-19.

Working alongside architects, companies and organizations have the ability to create incredible life-like experiences. However, designers are in need of support for innovative, thought-provoking investigations in our field. Many architects are seeking to continue their studies, while research encourages us to transcend what is ordinary. Considering accessibility and function, naturalistic digital spaces are a gift of the present — what may we expect from the future?

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You may connect with Oppenheim Architecture on our Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn pages.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: Beat Huesler and Tom McKeogh of Oppenheim Architecture On How Their… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Jon Morris of NOWHERE On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The…

The Future Is Now: Jon Morris of NOWHERE On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Art and Tech Scenes

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Casting is everything. Choose collaborators wisely. Team dynamics can make or break a project. Learn to predict what social dynamics will work. If everyone is having fun the project has a much higher potential for success.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jon Morris.

Jon Morris is an Athlete turned Actor turned Artist turned Creative Director turned CEO. From Le Louvre to Lady Gaga, from Cirque Du Soleil to the Metropolitan Opera, his work has been praised by NY Times, Rolling Stone, VICE, Wired…. Highlight works include; NOWHERE, reimagining online gathering; Reflecting the Stars, recreating the night sky in the Hudson River; Choreographing Nine Inch Nails Festival Tour; The Wedge, legendary slide/aerial-performance-center at Burning Man.

He has been a Thomas J. Watson Fellow, Kinnernet-Europe Experience Director, LaMaMa ETC Artist in residence, Watermill Center Fellow, Tennessee Williams Fellow, NCAA Postgraduate Scholar, 6-time All-American Springboard Diver, and holds a B.A. from the University of the South, Sewanee. Jon has taught master classes at Harvard, Columbia, NYU, and more.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I grew up watching my dad, a Baptist Minister, officiate weddings and funerals and I found myself studying the rooms of these big-moment, existential spaces from a very young age. As a teenager, I played all the sports and also performed theatre. I was always in love with the electricity of a live audience and the awe of sacred gathering.

In college I was fortunate enough to study acting at the Michael Howard Studios in NYC for a summer between my Junior and Senior year. While there I saw a new show at the Daryl Roth Theatre called Villa Villa by De La Guarda, a company from Argentina, that changed my life. I watched the walls come to life with actors who were athletes of emotion, literally flying through the air. They weren’t reciting Shakespeare or Williams; they were smashing into walls, ripping through the ceiling, kissing strangers, stomping in infectious rhythms, and creating powerful images of human connection. I was finally witnessing the theater written about by Antonin Artaud, which had seemed impossible up to this point. By the end of the performance my heart was racing from dancing, my body tingling with inspiration, and I was sopping wet, as it rained in the theatre at the end of the performance. THIS was theatre. This was something new. This was uncategorizable. And this was the confluence of everything I loved: athletics, acting and sacred experience.

This awakened a desire to create experiences that were of this magnitude. Little did I know at that time that this spark would become a career that would take me around the world and back again. All the way back to the very same Daryl Roth Theatre performing in the original NYC cast of Fuerzabruta, the sequel to Villa Villa which I performed over 1200 times around the world. Experiencing this kind of show, both as an audience member and performer, still inspires me to bring people together, to create visceral transformative experiences. And with the creation of Nowhere, I’m at the intersection of everything I’ve learned, and everything that drives me. Only now, at scale; where anyone in the world can have access to transformative experience. It’s very exciting!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Honestly there are too many to count!! But I’ll tell you about one of my very early installations that I still find myself thinking about.

I was riding my bike through the city on the West Side and I noticed the old pylons and piers in the Hudson. They made me think of my own childhood on the piers I grew up with in Kentucky. We’d hang out all night stargazing. And then it really hit me; the lack of stars in the NYC sky.

I feel like when we can’t see the stars, we really lose access to something important. Like we forget that we’re one of billions. We start believing we’re the Gods and that we’re in control. And I wondered if cities were losing civility and humans losing their humility because we’re losing touch with the reality of Nature, quite literally living in a kind of darkness. I fear that without this kind of connection, it becomes easier for decisions to be made based on profit and greed — when you don’t have this outside perspective — that there’s something greater than yourself out there. It’s easier to overlook a higher purpose maybe.

So I thought, I wanna put stars on these pylons. And that was the beginning of our piece Reflecting The Stars. So I started the process of figuring out how to do it. The technology I wanted didn’t exist so we had to make it. It took 2.5 years to engineer our waterproof, wirelessly controlled, solar powered LEDs that became our stars. And I got a crew and we swam in the Hudson and affixed our tech to the pylons. From the pier, you could hit buttons and light up constellations, and we made an interactive website where people could buy and dedicate stars to loved ones. So it was a far reaching project with a very big lift, that was about pollution, revitalizing the spirit, our humanity, our connection to nature and to each other.

Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Well, speaking of Reflecting The Stars, 10 years later, we’re in the same boat. The technology we wanted didn’t exist so we set out to make it. At the beginning of the pandemic, we looked around and saw that there was no great way to share collective experiences online which feel rewarding and leave us feeling more connected to our fellow humans. We’re utilizing the same techniques that we would to deepen and excite gathering in the real world and applying them to online gathering. We believe in the power of people being present and believe there is so much untapped potential to create this on the internet.

NOWHERE is a human-centric metaverse, combining video, gaming, and social interaction. So, imagine 3D zoom, with full social agency and spatial audio, in a stunning virtual landscape. That means no more breakout rooms, just move away from the group in order to have your aside. No more zoom fatigue. Interacting in NOWHERE mimics the way humans interact in real life. Our players report that much to their surprise, time flies when in NOWHERE. This means dramatically better social experiences to have with anyone in the world with a computer.

How do you think this might change the world?

We expect NOWHERE to enhance human communication and elevate respect and empathy by bringing all kinds of people together to share unique and sublime experiences. Among other things, we hope political divides will yield to human connectedness as we discover new ways to share space online.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

There will be all kinds of people that will utilize NOWHERE. We must be vigilant to design for inclusion and to design versatile features for moderation so hosts can create exciting and safe, healthy experiences for their guests.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Before the pandemic, The Windmill Factory was in collaboration with Eli Pariser (The Filter Bubble) to help create the first annual festival for the “New_Public” movement, an invite-only conference confronting the health of our digital public spaces. How do we create safer online spaces? How do we create online spaces that are beneficial to our growth rather than to our detriment? This is what we had been researching for several months, until we suddenly found ourselves in lockdown and all our work came to a halt.

My birthday was the first event we canceled in preparation for the lockdown we feared was right around the corner. Like many people, I attempted to move my gathering online. I held my party in Virbella, an avatar based virtual university I’d stumbled upon in my research. Me and 20 or so of my friends jumped online and putted around the cartoon university campus, shared prank power-point presentations in the auditorium and tried our hand at some team building activities which were built into the program. Virbella used spatial audio which meant we could have more intimate conversations if we wanted to, while still remaining in earshot and sight of the group. But most people wouldn’t stay on for long. The avatars hid so much of our meaning, so much intention, that conversation was actually exhausting. You don’t realize how much of our communication and the way we understand each other is actually nonverbal, until you take away our bodies, faces and presence.

This moment stayed with me as my work and projects all went on ice. I thought, why hasn’t a rad virtual space WITH HUMANS, not avatars, been made yet?!

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

More great partnerships with organizations, businesses, artists and performers of all shapes and sizes. We’ve set the stage, the rest is up to the people. People make the place.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We hosted the first ever festival entirely inside a web based spatial video platform. NOWHERE Fest was packed with incredible talks, panels, and performances celebrating phenomenal pandemic innovations over the past year featuring NIVA (National Independent Venue Association), Recharge Rooms, a discussion with Scott Simon & Robert Siegel (NPR), a concert by Andrew McMahon, roaming magicians, open mics, and socializing everywhere in between. Attendees could fluidly pop in and out of talks and directly engage the speakers and performers. In addition to our own festival, we’ve hosted several other larger events like Coin Desk’s Consensus, Institute For The Future’s 10 Year Forecast Summit, and APAP, to name a few.

We’re also releasing private accounts of the product strategically to select creators and clients in a Premiere Partners Program, which one can apply to on our website.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There have been so many over the years. My father, who worked tirelessly as a sharecropper’s son to become a PhD in Religious Studies and professor at Berea College. My mother, for supporting everything I did (almost), no matter how weird. My brother, for tolerating my persistent nagging to play with me. David Landon, Max Obermiller, and Sewanee for teaching me how to think. My wife, whose taste is impeccable and who keeps me honest in my creations. Esther Perel, for telling me to grow up and marry my wife. The Windmill Factory community, our Brooklyn family, who are always there for me no matter how bizarre the idea, from giant yoga ball pits to projecting on Con Edison steam in Times Square. My co-founder at The Windmill Factory, Ana Constantino, who always believes there’s a way. Adam Berenzweig, who collaborates generously from Reflecting The Stars to crafting the first demo of NOWHERE. Maxx Berkowitz for dreaming big and trusting adventure. Jay Benach for writing our first check. Evan Frohlich our head of engineering and our phenomenal NOWHERE team, whose dedication to building this dream inspires me daily. And so many more.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

As I have become more successful, the projects have become more ambitious and the reach is growing. I believe so deeply in the power of art to transform, the power of sublime connection to heal. That has always been my mission. And I think NOWHERE is actually the culmination of all my best work. I can see how the last 15 years have led me to want to bring the experiences I make to the entire world in the digital space.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Sometimes the way out is not through. I learn a version of this everyday. It’s ok to flip the table and start from scratch.
  2. Failing is a gift. Failing is a necessary path to success. If you’re not failing, then you’re not risking enough.
  3. Engineers are extraordinary artists. A truly great engineer is among the great artists of our time.
  4. Plan more. Build less. Measure twice, cut once.
  5. Casting is everything. Choose collaborators wisely. Team dynamics can make or break a project. Learn to predict what social dynamics will work. If everyone is having fun the project has a much higher potential for success.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Imagine if there were a great commons on the internet, like Central Park, where everyone could intermingle and be exposed to every walk of life. So much about growth is just being exposed to differences. Imagine if we could beat the algorithms that are keeping us in silos and discover more.

Now = separation state. Future = virtual humanity. That’s NOWHERE.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

In a thick French accent, “You are sooo boring. Do you live far from here? Go home immediately.”

I had just graduated with honors and awards from The University of The South, Sewanee. I was a cocky American kid embarking on a prestigious Watson Fellowship, to study my proposed dream, Athletics to Acting in Movement Theatre. My first stop was a clown school in the North of London called L’Ecole Philippe Gualier, led by an extraordinary clown of the same name and I was in for a surprise. I had always been a star on the stages where I’d performed, and I admit, I believed this would always be true. Until I jumped on Gualier’s stage and quickly learned I was wrong. Gaulier is brutally honest. If you are not delighting the audience within seconds of taking the stage, you are removed.

This level of direct honesty and accountability is a rarity in theatre training, where most performers are coddled and praised for mediocrity and false charm. He doesn’t let you get away with anything less than spectacular. Many call him mean, inconsiderate, harsh; those who have trained with him even cringe when you say his name. He taught me some necessary humility. He taught me to listen more than act. He taught me to always look for the game, that it was on me to discover how to play it, and he taught me how to fail without complaining or quitting. I learned the resilience necessary to be the kind of risk-taking creator I ultimately became. He broke me and I’m still grateful today.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

The future of the internet is NOWHERE.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Yes. @picturejonmorris www.linkedin.com/in/jonlmorris @urnowhere @windmillfactory

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: Jon Morris of NOWHERE On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Patton Design: Doug Patton’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

Conquering the Chaos of Creativity: Doug Patton’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

Whatever idealism you think you have must always be multiplied by 100. Idealism is fueled by vibrant intellectual energy that powers the soul and spirit of your invention process. This idealism is maintained not only through daily vigilance, but also through years of walking the path of the creative warrior.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Doug Patton.

Doug Patton is an esteemed industrial designer who was an inventor featured on Simon Cowell’s American Inventor. He has created over 300 products in 20 international market categories and has received over 150 patents and international design awards. Doug frequently works with companies like Apple, Microsoft, Disney, IBM, and Mercedes-Benz. It is his mission to inspire others to live more authentic lives by sharing his unique creative problem-solving process.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

As far back in my life as I can remember, I have viewed art and science as one in the same — a part of the inseparable whole of creativity involving a highly imaginative process.

As early as the 1st grade, I would win national art contests and science fairs, intuitively designing concepts. In college, I changed majors many times, easily switching between modalities. I didn’t feel at home in any one department; instead, my mind took me from avenue to avenue in search of creative grandeur.

One day, a visiting professor in my art class said something to me that would change my life. I had been creating a kinematic sculpture, molding clear plexiglass with the goal of animating it. The professor asked me what I was doing, and when I explained my project, he told me, “You should be an industrial designer,” saying that designers used engineering, art, and design simultaneously in the process of inventing. In complete awe, I pivoted my entire path towards industrial design that day, and I never looked back.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

When I was consulting for Microsoft in the early 90s, I was working on a project that involved the translation of software ideas; I innovated applications for hardware, creating new concepts in doing so.

When asked to give a presentation one day, I used the PRM1 remote control I had created for Mitsubishi, which used a particularly sleek design, all controls situated within a pen form. After the presentation was over, Karl Schulmeister approached me and asked about the remote. At that point, the remote had received more publicity than any of Mitsubishi’s other products, as it embodied ease of use and minimalistic simplicity.

Karl startled me by saying, “I’ve seen Bill walking around with your remote in hand and asking his team, ‘Why can’t you guys make something this simple?’ I want to introduce you to Bill because I know he would want you to help him with improving the electronics experience in his new home.” Karl continued, informing me that he was working with Bill on a company Bill had created called Interactive Home Systems; it was focused on using the greatest electronic innovation possible for the home environment. With this, I began helping Bill with his home electronics.

This was the beginning of my relationship with Bill Gates, whom I consider a creative genius in his own right. In my book Conquering the Chaos of Creativity, I describe one of my first presentations to Bill that involved complex ideas hinting at an outcome. When I asked him what he thought the final concepts might be, he responded with an extraction of relevant details and accurate conclusions. At that point, I considered whether he was a mind-reader in addition to being a genius.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

To me, idealism is the essential guiding philosophy. It is what fuels my unwavering passion for implementing a revolutionary new vision with regard to any concept that crosses my mind and desk.

I have sacrificed everything in my life for my idealism — finances, time, and relationships, to name a few areas. However, this pursuit of what I consider truth has paid dividends beyond reckoning. I aim to help improve humanity, whether through medical equipment innovations or faux candles that convey peace, and in that quest, I am always rewarded.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

Over the course of four decades — including designing 300+ products, innovating for 20+ market categories, and securing 150+ patents — I always felt that my attempts to improve my imagination and problem-solving would someday prove to be the most important invention I ever created — and I believe I was right.

In my career, many have tried to lead me down avenues that promised great wealth and fortune, but following any given path would have led to a focus on one product area and discontinuation of the idealized diversity of learning in the 20+ market categories I have invented in. These paths would have ultimately led me away from myself.

Today, I have hundreds of amazing inventions that have helped humanity in the market categories of medical, automotive, and consumer products, among others. However, I feel my truest success has been what I have learned by virtue of pursuing intellectual idealism, creating the tools of creativity and techniques in my problem-solving treatise Conquering the Chaos of Creativity.

As a result of promoting the book, I have been fortunate enough to speak with people the world over about imagination and creativity. The further into talks I am drawn, the more my awareness increases regarding one simple but devastating fact: our culture has not only ignored creativity, but has also promoted its converse.

What I feel might change the world is a movement that I am honored to be at the helm of, generating essential creative energy. Many dissatisfied people long to see their imagination and creativity expand. To these intrepid souls I hope to gift the creative problem-solving techniques of analysis, inspiration, spirituality/philosophy, invention, and imagination. These categories are not only concepts; they are also vast vistas of potential. They have been necessary for me as a matter of creative survival, containing all the intensity of intellectual liberation and the grit of creative battle.

How do you think this will change the world?

As these ideas expand, I hope to create a moment in which creativity and imagination provide focus within an expanding culture of awareness. What I think will truly change the world is communicating my process of creativity and imagination as well as inspiring people with the intellectual and imaginative bliss I have experienced in my own creative process.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

Historically, political structures have manipulated culture in a process of negativity with the aim of maintaining control. This has been accomplished through military force, social rules, and even subversion of religion to further individuals’ Machiavellian desires. Today, this process is much the same, but it has become even more focused on social media, news, and social structures.

The unfortunate goal of most political systems is to maintain tight control over people’s minds and society through education, which creates ideological confinement conferring comfort, not enlightenment. People exist in ideological boxes, for the most part, completely negating creativity within the unconscious control exerted over their daily experience. The more I advance with regard to innovation, the more I become convinced not that society has forgotten creativity and imagination, but that it has consciously forsaken them.

Unfortunately, we are quickly entering into a Black Mirror-esque scenario in keeping with this.

My attention is focused not on the petty pessimism that could be discussed in this regard, but instead on what the present gives us an opportunity to gain. There have been brief sparks of the status quo being ripped asunder throughout history, such as in the French Revolution and hippie era, but imagine what it would be like if the creative power and enlightenment from these periods were perpetual. Imagine what could ensue if creativity and imagination were taught in school from the very beginning and it was made clear that they are our most important assets.

If we can embrace creativity as a new revolutionary moment in the history of humanity, we can upset the balance of society. Doing so can cause the mind to blossom. It can empower the soul to fly free. We would be able to successfully thwart the media’s control over our lives, questioning everything in our quest for creative idealism and thereby entering a new era of humanity.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

There has been no tipping point per se, as the process has been a powerful, slowly-breaking wave that has surged over decades of recording my ideas and using them to construct the ultimate authoritative guide that is Conquering the Chaos of Creativity.

Ever since the book came out, a great deal of discussion has been created with interviews, articles, and emails. In these is the aforementioned theme that people don’t know how to achieve creativity in their lives, constantly frustrated the world hasn’t given them the tools they need to succeed.

If anything, the tipping point, then, is the publication of the book, and that is just the tip of the iceberg — the beginning of an unyielding story.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

My responses to the amazing questions in this article and the exposure generated from other publications are essential for connecting people to the various aspects of creativity the book discusses. Beyond this, I encourage people to pursue the intrinsic call to be creative, expanding their abilities. Answering this beckoning from deep within is needed for creativity to take its rightful place in society.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

I interpret this question from the perspective of when I began venturing down the path of passionate idealism.

  1. I wish someone had told me how courageous you must be in pursuit of innovative excellence; the status quo of society, by its very nature, both resists and halts creativity.
     — Early in my career, I invented a means of injecting a foldable intraocular lens into the capsular bag of your eye for cataract surgery, creating a company called Patton Medical. My aim was to revolutionize cataract surgery, as until that point, a glass lens was inserted when a cataract was removed with a large incision. Upon patenting and presenting my concept to the ophthalmic companies of the world, almost all surgeons and companies disregarded it, stating that though it would help patients, there was not enough reason to implement it. It took over 10 years for these ideas to be adopted through my idealistic pursuit. Today, every cataract surgery around the world utilizes my concept.
  2. Whatever idealism you think you have must always be multiplied by 100.
     — Idealism is fueled by vibrant intellectual energy that powers the soul and spirit of your invention process. This idealism is maintained not only through daily vigilance, but also through years of walking the path of the creative warrior.
     — In all you do, you must move ahead bearing the scars of failure, confident in the knowledge that this will make you stronger and more successful. The level of energy required for this has crushed many, but after fighting hundreds of creative battles, I find that the creative inertia of my idealism has expanded.
  3. The path of idealism is the most challenging path that anyone can walk in life. I believe the hardest possible path that can be taken in life is pursuing an idealistic vision, taking it from concept to reality successfully. Doing this once or twice in one’s life is difficult, but I have done this hundreds of times, unrelenting in over 20 market categories and with regard to hundreds of patents. My life’s story is the best example I can think of for this truth.
  4. The fight to create revolutionary designs and inventions is incessant. We are all innately creative and highly imaginative. Traditionally, society has not taught this to most, but after decades of daily dedication to creative invention, I am fortunate to say it has been my greatest pleasure to bask in the creative joy of daily innovation.
     — Circumstances most see as unnerving challenges now allow me to dance with the energy I have generated using daily idealism. The fight has become a flowing dance of creativity that is not only incessant, but also as effortless as breathing.
  5. The physical and mental energy required to give equal attention to your idealism and family is extraordinary, so you must be vigilant, never allowing your energy to fade.
     — Early in my career, I was greatly successful, helping create supercomputers for McDonnell Douglas as well as revolutionary inventions for Apple. This required me to work very long hours. During this time, my daughter Heather was born, and I found what I thought was an incredible amount of energy that I had put into my business had a new focus. Every morning, I would wake up at 5 a.m. to care for my daughter so my wife could sleep, work 10 hours a day, and come home to take care of my daughter. I found the tremendous joy and energy from this flowed into my goal to be a good husband and, later, into the arrival of my son Sean. In the decades that followed, I felt that I never once compromised in my love for my family, for my idealism, and for creating revolutionary new concepts.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

In the pursuit of revolutionary idealism, one is constantly barraged with challenges on a daily basis. You will have many failures and many successes. The key is to not be depressed by your failures and to not bask in your success, but more importantly, to realize that success and failure have a yin and yang relationship that is essential in the process of pursuing creativity and idealism. Neither aspect is as important as an understanding that they are subcategories of a greater whole: the experience of pursuing new ideas. Understanding and enjoying this experience is what emboldens you, enabling you to always move forward.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I invite you to visit the Patton Design website, where you will see over 5 companies in development that will revolutionize the fields of medicine and home environment products. In the past, my success rate has created many companies that generate millions of dollars every year; I invite venture capitalists to contact me to discuss not only the potential of my companies, but also my ability to help them in pursuing new innovations they are interested in investing in.

The greatest investment a VC can make where Patton Design is concerned is developing a thorough understanding of the theories of creativity in Conquering the Chaos of Creativity. I ask VCs to, if interested, help me spread the word through an upcoming television and podcast series I am contemplating to educate and generate greater excitement about creativity and imagination.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@PattonDesign

Conqueringthechaosofcreativity.com

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Patton Design: Doug Patton’s Big Idea That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Sandra Wood: 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Avoiding sorting through emotions and feelings can be very detrimental. It’s imperative for women to understand and be aware of their feelings and emotions post divorce. Getting off of the roller coaster and emotional chaos is important. The only way to do that is to build awareness, resiliency and connect with oneself. Over medicating with technology, television, alcohol or other relationships can contribute to mental health challenges and perpetuate unhealthy relationships.

As part of our series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce Or Breakup” I had the pleasure of interviewing Sandra Wood.

Sandra Wood is a highly successful divorced coach. Having been through her own painful relationship breakups along with countless other challenges, Sandra now helps divorced women regain their identity and confidence, bring clarity on what they want moving forward and heal the patterns of their past, so they aren’t repeated.

Sandra Wood | Reclaim Your Life After Divorce. Starting Now.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Seventeen years ago, I was shopping with my daughters when my doctor called me and said, “Sandra, I am really sorry to tell you this over the phone, but you have cancer.” I was stunned. Something was tapping me on the shoulder and giving me notice-your life needs to change. Thankfully, my cancer was treatable. However, it did give me the opportunity to pause. Two years later and after several marriage counseling sessions, my marriage of 20 years ended. My life felt like a giant storm-alternating between calm seas and tsunami waters.

Communication was rough in the beginning with my ex. There was a lot of anger-on both sides. That spurred me on to learn about boundary management and I will admit, I learned through trial and error. I assumed full time parenting of my two teen daughters and grieved the loss of the life I had left. I worried about my daughters and struggled to take good care of myself. I read a ton of books, sought counseling and began to rebuild my life. I regained my confidence over time and became less a victim of my circumstance. I dug into the lessons that my marriage and divorce had given me and started creating a new identity that had more to do with my values, strengths, and purpose rather than the roles I had always assumed. My children watched me grow and create new boundaries while I demonstrated that even when life is hard, you can still blossom.

In 2006, I became certified as a Life Coach and started working with women helping them negotiate careers, life balance and self care. Having worked through my own divorce, single parenting, communication challenges and all that goes into rebuilding an identity, this led me to honing my experience into assisting women to use the challenges of divorce to manifest empowerment and positive life changes. Through my programs and coaching clients, I teach women how to navigate through relationship break ups and divorce so that they too can own their power to create a life of their own making.

Can you explain to our readers why you consider yourself an expert in “divorce?”

Leveraging and learning from my personal experience and fusing that with running a women’s divorce support group, I have learned the intricate challenges and issues that arise for women of all ages coming out of a divorce. I have spent seventeen years teaching the art of relationships and how to walk women through boundary management, non violent communication, recovering from trauma, rebuilding identity and confidence, and understanding and working through intense emotions. I am yoga certified and have been teaching women how to be embodied through yoga, mindfulness and meditation, important techniques to use when recovering from relationship loss. Currently I have been studying Dhogchen Buddhism with my second husband, which has expanded my wisdom and understanding about life and supporting women. I am always learning and expanding my expertise in the divorce arena and within our relationship with ourselves and others.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

The biggest surprises that have come my way during this career have been how many women have endured trauma and abuse in their childhoods and marriages. Women often come to coaching disconnected from their inner selves and with the desire to recover but having no idea how to get there. It is always interesting to me to see that regardless of the trauma, women heal, and lead remarkably stable and happy lives. The resiliency of their spirit always impresses me. One client in particular, was raised by a mother who suffered from schizophrenia and had abused her quite terribly. This client had only attracted abusive, mentally ill men in her life and was in a lot of pain as she came to coaching to learn how to disconnect from this dynamic. She dug into the work of healing and now has a healthy, loving, partner and has adopted a foster child after thinking she would never have children or create a happy healthy household of her own. She is remarkable and just one example of how women can truly overcome their past.

What are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?

  1. Not understanding why the marriage didn’t work or what went wrong. When women just want to move on and not unpack trauma or the dysfunction of what happened in their marriage, they end up recreating it in future relationships which just leads to the same issues again and again. It is a much better use of their time to understand these dynamics before moving on again. Going to therapy, joining a support group or working with a coach can be extremely helpful to understand what happened and be more intentional about future choices.
  2. Staying stuck in victim mode. It’s normal to feel disappointed, angry, frustrated, hurt and grieving after a divorce. If women stay perpetually in negative emotional states they can get stuck in a constant state of victimhood and perpetuate the story, not realizing that they can create a new narrative. Learn to own your story, gather what lessons you can and understand that life is filled with contrasting experiencinces. We can grow and change and help others through our story and our overcoming of difficult challenges. Find people who believe in you and don’t keep your victim story alive. Sometimes divorce gives us an opportunity to dump toxic relationships and in doing so, we can drop our victim mentality.
  3. Focusing too much on the ex and the problems of the marriage. It is very important to understand how to communicate more effectively, or not at all, with an ex-partner depending on whether you have children or not. Staying stuck in the cycle of communication or frustration with the ex can be a trap and keep positive momentum from happening. Learning to have boundaries and make requests that don’t lead to fighting is important for moving on healthfully and for future relationships. Counselors and coaches can help you learn non violent communication techniques and support you in learning how to change the dynamics with the ex and family members.
  4. Dating too soon. Most women have not been in the dating world for quite some time and things have changed since they last were single. Just loading a bunch of aps and putting yourself “out there” too soon after divorce can be disastrous. It’s far more grounding and effective to spend some time with yourself, get familiar with who you are now and not attach to another person too soon. Women might have patterns of co-dependency so it’s best to unpack that before choosing a new partner. Wait and learn more about what you DO want to attract next time round. It’s great to get out and meet new people, but don’t just make it be about finding another person to get attached to. Making yourself the most important thing is vital. Get to know yourself first! Once you do that you will attract the right partner.
  5. Avoiding sorting through emotions and feelings can be very detrimental. It’s imperative for women to understand and be aware of their feelings and emotions post divorce. Getting off of the roller coaster and emotional chaos is important. The only way to do that is to build awareness, resiliency and connect with oneself. Over medicating with technology, television, alcohol or other relationships can contribute to mental health challenges and perpetuate unhealthy relationships.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?

Favorite books: Untamed by Glennon Doyle, A Happy Pocket Full of Money by David Cameron Gikandi, Emotional Agility by Susan David, PhD, Super Attractor by Garbielle Bernstein and Playing Big by Tara Mohr are my favorite books these last few years.

Favorite podcasts– Conversations with Abraham Hicks, Unlocking Us by Brene Brown and Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris are podcasts I enjoy and learn from.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that helped you in this work? Can you share how that was relevant in your real life?

“If you don’t go within, you go without.” Victor Frankl

Nobody can understand you until you understand yourself. Deciding to go within can be quite terrifying but the most enlightened path one can take. I understood this concept as I was coming out of my divorce. I wasn’t sure who I was, what I wanted and had allowed others to inform my identity. Giving myself time to contemplate, I discovered that I was a co-dependent, a wonderful empath but had allowed others to dominate me in order to avoid conflict. When I started to realize that my inner environment was informing my external experiences, I started to shift many things about how I was ‘doing life’! I began to understand where I ended, and other people began. I stopped owning other people’s problems and started taking more responsibility for my life. When we take time to know ourselves inwardly, and explore our dreams, desires, patterns, beliefs, habits and emotions we expand and feel more deeply connected to life itself. When I am in doubt or unsure, I go within and find my truth, or at least the closest thing I can find that brings me back into alignment with my dreams and desires.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

My biggest project right now is growing my business and then bringing my family into the vision of changing the world, one person at a time. My husband is a Buddhist, Life Coach, and Mentor, as well as a meditation and mindfulness teacher. My oldest daughter is a health and business coach and loves to support young mothers and women entrepreneurs. My youngest daughter is passionate about changing the racial disparities in our culture and is a storyteller using her talents in photography and videography. My vision is for us all to intersect our passions and to create more impact in the world.

Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Give all young girls and women an education. Last time I checked there were at least 31 million primarily aged girls having no access to education. Secondary education for girls can transform communities, countries and our world. It is an investment in economic growth, a healthier workforce and lasting peace. My dream is to fund and support the movement to give young women in 3rd world countries access to an education and in doing this we empower young women to change the world.

I am with connecting and starting to contribute to a community in Agra, Uttra Pradesh India right now that is educating both young men and women and teaching girls self defense. They are part of the untouchable community, Dalit, those that are segregated and persecuted in India. Funds go towards educating and feeding these children and their families who have been greatly impacted by COVID-19.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them

I have a lot of people that impress me! Right now I follow Ashley Gordon @quantumcoach and Dr. Ashurina Ream @psychedmommy on instagram.I would also love to connect with Dr. Donny Epstein a network chiropractor that has an interesting movement across the energetic world, as well as Tony Robbins who has built an empire within the self help movement. I am always loving Brene Brown’s work, Gabby Bernstein and Susan David-thought leaders changing how women show up in the world and embracing vulnerability and authenticity. I would gladly have a meal with any of these amazing humans.

Thank you for these great insights and for the time you spent with this interview. We wish you only continued success!


Sandra Wood: 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Brand Makeovers: Jenn Szekely of Coley Porter Bell On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and…

Brand Makeovers: Jenn Szekely of Coley Porter Bell On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Define and activate your brand purpose- Numerous studies have shown that Purpose-led organizations outperform those that are not. As a result, many organizations have been defining why their company exists beyond profits -their brand purpose. But for many, little is done with it besides defining it and using it in marketing and communications, or having the words displayed on a Boardroom wall. Far fewer have cracked the nut of embedding it into their organization. It’s the brands that are activating it, having it play a pivotal role in the employee experience and using it to guide business decisions that are the ones gaining the most traction.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to intervie wJenn Szekely.

Jenn Szekely leads Coley Porter Bell’s US business, based in New York and is a member of the Coley Porter Bell Board. She brings over 20 years of experience in B2C and B2B across a variety of industries, including retail, technology, hospitality, FMCG, nonprofit, manufacturing and healthcare. Prior to her career in branding, Jenn ran her own company, which included retail stores in Boston, Massachusetts — specialized in fashion, art, antiques and design — that were recognized in national and international newspapers, magazines, books and television.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My path is not a linear one. I started my career with a brief stint in the music industry, in promotion. It was an industry I was brought up around and while I love music, my passion was design, art, and antiques. I decided to follow my passion and started my own business and for almost a decade, before selling, I owned and ran two retail stores in Boston (one of which is still there today) and wholesaled globally.

Family and personal reasons brought me back to New York. After six months of spending half my day doing yoga in an Ashram in upstate New York, I distinctly remember my mother wisely saying I cannot be retired at 30, so find yourself something to do. I ended up taking a role as an art consultant, doing art for hospitality, corporate and residential interiors, which was related to what I was doing in my own business, having worked with many interior designers. I worked on lots of hotels and restaurants, including Atlantis in Paradise Island, Westin, Sheraton, and with Todd English on various projects for his restaurants.

And while I liked doing the art, I wanted to influence more around the hospitality experience and work on the overall branding and experience of hotels. I ended up going to an independent agency that did work I admired, from there I took a different type of role at a larger private equity owned agency and from there moved to different positions at global holding company branding agencies, which eventually led me to WPP and Coley Porter Bell (an Ogilvy Company).

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing or branding mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One of the first projects I worked on in branding was for Absolut. The project was to develop a limited-edition Absolut New York bottle. We ended up convincing the client to do Absolut Brooklyn instead, given that Brooklyn was blowing up at the time. My role on the project was to help find the right celebrity partner. Why I was given that job on the project, I have no idea, as I had no experience doing that sort of thing. Anyway, I ended up loving it, as I got to have lots of conversations with very interesting people (well-known writers, artists, musicians, etc.). But when you think about Brooklyn, the one person bubbled to the top of our list, Spike Lee. One day I picked up the phone and called his office and to my surprise, he took my call. We had a great conversation, which ended by him accepting an invitation to visit our NoHo office to discuss the project further and meet the team.

Two funny things happened the day he came. The first was about 10 seconds into the visit where he said to me, “Jenn, this is not going to work out.” The reason: We had a showcase in our reception area of the office and sometimes we would display our work but other times, we let the teams build displays around things they were passionate about. That week it turned out that the numerous Bostonians in the office decided to make a shrine to the Red Sox and Celtics, which did not go over well with the die-hard Knicks fan. While I could have been more prepared, it ended up being funny and a good ice breaker.

The next thing that happened was really funny; a real happy accident. The design team were putting all sorts of images on inspiration boards in the studio. One of the areas of exploration were the great brownstones and stoops of Brooklyn. Buried in the mix, Spike pointed to one image and went on to tell us that the image was of the house he grew up in. I was told by our designer it was a random coincidence but even if it was not, it was a magical moment and one I like to think sealed the deal. In the end, it was his stoop that ended up becoming the image used on the final bottle design.

When I reflect on that experience and experiences I’ve had since then, the lesson I’ve learned is that authenticity and a little scrappiness can sometimes be the winning strategy. It is not always necessary to overplan, overengineer and orchestrate every interaction.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?

I feel very fortunate to have had several successes in my different careers, but when I think of my current chapter (branding), the real tipping point for me was when I was started getting recognized by my peers and former colleagues. The major jumps I had in my career came from people/companies who were referred to me by former colleagues. My latest role is actual the very first time I’ve worked with a recruiter for a position.

The one big thing I would take away from this is that relationships matter, especially internal ones with colleagues. A lot of times people are so focused on external perceptions of themselves and their work but the internal colleagues you work with won’t always be colleagues and they can be your best advocates in your career — sometimes even more so than your clients.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are working on a bunch of exciting projects right now, but one is tugging at my heart due to the impact the company has on people. Unfortunately, due to confidentiality agreements I can’t say much about it, but I can say it is in the healthcare space for a company whose innovative approach has made such an impact on an audience that too few people have invested in.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Before the pandemic my answer would have been travel and go somewhere new, meet different kinds of people and experience different things, as I have found that some of my best thinking comes during these types of trips.

During the pandemic, one thing that has helped me is unplugging. When I’ve had time off, I’ve taken time away from all my devices. Being present in both nature and with the people around me has given me the same inspiration and has rejuvenated me in a similar way travel does.

Ok, let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

When I explain what I do to people and the difference between branding and advertising, I talk about how branding is about defining and developing the foundational elements of a brand, the strategies, identities, and experiences that don’t change the way a lot of advertising campaigns do (although some do stand the test of time). Branding work should last for the next 10–15 years and sometime longer. The work we do complements advertising, acting both as the springboard for the development of creative and experiences but also a filter for evaluating them.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

There are so many reasons, from differentiating against the competition: building trust with audiences and helping create loyalty, to ensuring consistency, helping recruit and retain talent, and more. There’s also lots of data, including data from BrandZ that shows that brand-led organizations outperform leading stock market indexes like S&P500.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

Companies typically consider rebranding when they are going through a moment of change. That change could be due to M&A, a leadership change, a change in business strategy, etc. Or in many cases, the brand just hasn’t kept up with the business. I’ve worked with so many companies where their business had changed over many years, but the branding still reflected who they were and not who they currently are.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

There are watch-outs when it comes to rebranding, especially if you are a legacy organization with lots of heritage. In that instance, you want to make sure you are not throwing away the baby with the bathwater. When rebranding, not everything needs to change. One misconception of our industry is that a rebrand means ‘all new’. Some elements of a brand have such equity it would not make business sense to make a wholesale change and sometimes just optimizing a few things can have a huge impact.

An example of this is one of our clients, Boots, part of the Walgreens Boots Alliance. This 170+ year old brand knew it needed a refresh but there was hesitation given the iconic nature of things like its logo. Building off the new brand strategy, we helped them update their visual identity and add to it, as opposed to starting from scratch. The logo was optimized for the digital age and liberated from the dated lozenge but the essence of it was retained. The evolution of their logo was supported by refreshing all the other elements of the visual identity, making it fit for purpose for the digital age, modernizing it and giving the organization the tools to clearly communicate its three key offerings — pharmacy, beauty, and well-being.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share 5 strategies that a company can do to upgrade and re-energize their brand and image”? Please tell us a story or an example for each.

  1. Define and activate your brand purpose- Numerous studies have shown that Purpose-led organizations outperform those that are not. As a result, many organizations have been defining why their company exists beyond profits -their brand purpose. But for many, little is done with it besides defining it and using it in marketing and communications, or having the words displayed on a Boardroom wall. Far fewer have cracked the nut of embedding it into their organization. It’s the brands that are activating it, having it play a pivotal role in the employee experience and using it to guide business decisions that are the ones gaining the most traction. Patagonia is an example of a company who lives and breathes its brand purpose, “We’re in Business to Save Our Home Planet”. Not only do they give away 1% of sales each year to environmental organizations but they encourage employees to take part in their mission, beyond their day-to-day jobs. After a year of employment, employees can take two-months off (paid) to volunteer for an environmental cause or organization. They have initiatives like Action Works and support employees that are activists for causes they believe in. They take their purpose so seriously that they will even pay their employees’ bail, legal fees, and related time away from work if they are arrested in peaceful environmental protests.
  2. Elevate the role of your corporate brand- This strategy is particularly aimed at house of brands companies or hybrid companies with strong product brands. These types of companies, both B2C and B2B typically spend most of their resources marketing their product brands, giving very little attention to their corporate brand. In many cases, there is not even a clear strategy for the role of the corporate brand, as it relates to their product brands. Hospitality and travel companies have used their loyalty programs to connect the different brands within their portfolios, but one can argue they can do even more to support their corporate brand. P&G is an-example of a company who has done a really nice job over the last decade elevating their corporate brand relative to their products. Through vehicles like ‘Thank you, Mom’, and how they incorporate their corporate brand into their product brand experience, consumers are much more aware of the company behind the products they buy.
  3. Align your brand with your business- There are so many companies out there that have amazingly innovative products, services, and business models but when you look at the brand it is hard to believe they come from that company. Their branding has just not kept up with their business, in other words, they just look old and dusty. I recently reached out to help solve this very problem with one company who I won’t name but is in the medical technology space,
  4. Create an immersive brand identity- When it comes to brand identity, the needs today are different than even a decade ago. While digital has been a growing for a long time, the pandemic has made it something companies can no longer ignore. But many brands just don’t have the tools from an identity standpoint to thrive. There are lots of amazing identities out there that visually manifest their strategy and tell the story of their brands, but very few are delivering a truly immersive and holistic experience, which people expect from brands today, regardless of whether they are B2B or B2C. Some brands are doing things well — brands like Uber have made digital a core part of the identity, their component library is completely connected to its identity, and Netflix who leverages the power of a sonic identity, to brands like Zappos and Starbucks who put a strong focus on the service experience — but very few have been able to put all these together to define a truly immersive brand identity that can be delivered across its communications and experiences.
  5. Embark on an employee engagement program -. Employees are your biggest brand ambassadors. More and more of our clients are seeking help with employee engagement, not only because it’s a critical component to ensuring success when rebranding, but also an increasingly important factor in recruiting and retention, as expectations of the employee experience are higher than ever. One of our clients, LEGO® has done a brilliant job at engaging employees around their strategy of “learning through play”. There is a great quote from Seymour Papert, a former LEGO® Professor of Learning Research at MIT Media Lab: “Rather than pushing children to think like adults, we might do better to remember that they are great learners and to try harder to be more like them.” In support of this, Lego® does things like having Play Days, where LEGO® employees from over the world take the day off work to play. The whole idea of learning through play is not only used internally, but it also informs lots of external decisions, from the partnerships it has to the actual products they develop.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job doing a “Brand Makeover”. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

One of the ones that stands out that I had the privilege of working on is Tupperware. The whole story of the rebrand, how it started, and the amazing clients is a story on its own for another time but regarding the work, it’s just powerful.

Tupperware suffered from perception challenges as a brand that was seen as dated. But when you experience the brand today, it clearly communicates the mission-driven, global and innovative brand that it is. The old associations of the Tupperware party have been replaced with a brand that inspires and installs confidence in women around the world, that has always and still does develop some of the most useful and innovative products in the marketplace. I encourage you to do a blind taste test of chicken made in their microwave pressure cooker, a gift I was given to me by their global creative director, it blew my mind!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I wish more people embraced the power of mentorship. It is quite magical to see the impact a person can have on another person. I am so lucky to have benefited from the mentorship of founders of some of the world’s iconic branding agencies, they were experiences that shaped my career and ones that I can’t help but want to pay forward. If more people took the initiative to take on a mentee, I believe the world would be a better place. And for those who say I just don’t have the time; I want you to know that you are missing out, as the experience is so reciprocal. While mentoring is helping and grooming others, I continue to be surprised and delighted at how much I learn and get out of the experience as well.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I can’t believe I am going to quote a Baz Luhrmann song publicly but I am. I love much of what is in Everybody’s Free (to wear sunscreen) but the one piece of advice that I love the most is…

“Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your

life…the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they

wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year

olds I know still don’t.”

I find this quote so liberating. It is related to the reason I love airports so much; it opens the door to possibilities. It also quells the voice of around expectations, and while I love my current chapter, it makes me feel optimistic about my next one.

How can our readers follow you online?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenniferszekely

Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.


Brand Makeovers: Jenn Szekely of Coley Porter Bell On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Vizsla Silver Corp: Michael Konnert: Big Idea That Might Change the World

Vizsla Silver Corp: Michael Konnert’s Big Idea That Might Change the World

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Find a good group of people you look up to and add value. — The most important factor is ‘people’ that helps you get ahead in this industry. So, my best advice to the prospering industry professionals is to find individuals you can relate to, look up to, add value to them and see what happens. In my experience, it will open many successful avenues for you to grow.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Konnert.

As CEO of Vizsla Silver Corp., Michael Konnert is the face of the evolving mining and mineral exploration industry. For this 33-year-old young entrepreneur, his hands-on approach to mastering the business of mineral exploration, combined with his prophetic ability to discover business potential, has taken him to unforeseen success for a businessman his age. In this sense, he has been referred to as an Alchemist within his close circle. He is usually the first to spot opportunities in untapped spaces and transforms them into golden investment opportunities.

His ability to resurrect the Panuco mine, which had been dormant for several years, is one such success story. Michael raised over $100 Million for Vizsla Silver, while providing a much-needed lifeline to the local community just outside the town of Concordia in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico.

His vision for the company is to establish themselves as a world leader in finding, financing and developing minerals and in setting the stage for the 4th industrial revolution. He strives towards building a resilient organization that is value-driven and has a persistent culture that allows adapting to ever-changing industry conditions.

This young man envisions himself as a forward-thinking “Mining Millennial” who speaks the language of and represents the aspirations of the new generation of leaders in the mining and exploration industry with a clear commitment to ethics, workplace safety, diversity and inclusion, ESG and constructive relationships.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I have had an active interest in investing from an early age. My ambition, persistence and dedicated energy have led me to where I am today. When I was 13 years old, I bought my first stock after having saved money doing odd jobs. I always had a vision for myself and kept on pursuing my goals. Today, I am the Founder and CEO of Vizsla Silver and Managing Director of Inventa Capital. I have raised over $110M for the company and have acquired the district-scale Panuco Project, which delivers high-grade silver and gold, and with drilling in place since last year.

What makes it meaningful for me is the way that these projects can materially improve the lives of our shareholders, as well as the communities in which we operate. As a ‘Mining Millennial’, I place great emphasis on ethical and sustainable businesses. I hope to challenge preconceived notions and show an evolved and progressive side to mining, while also building bridges among all our stakeholder groups.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

When I was younger, I thought that I was going to be the next big thing in real estate. At age 18, I bought my first house, refurbished it, and managed to sell it right before the global financial crisis of 2008. Luckily, I was able to foresee the upcoming crash and managed to get out on time without any losses. That lead me to reconsider my choices. I finished my degree in entrepreneurship and ended up in the minerals and mining space afterward.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

My philosophy in life has been to make money while being cognizant of the public good. I have also been fortunate to have received great mentorship from people whom I look up to along the way, so I try to be very generous with my time and provide advice and guidance to people in my extended circle of friends. Similarly in my career, I invest my time into adding value to our shareholders and promoting an ethical, sustainable, and community-driven approach to doing business. My goal is to build a resilient organization, one that is guided by values, being trendsetters, doing it in our own way and adapt to changing conditions.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change the World”?

My big idea revolves around making ‘good money’. I believe that if every company in minerals and mining placed importance on the ‘business of good’ and building strong communities then the world would be a much better place. I acquired the Panuco Project through Vizsla Silver in Sinaloa, Mexico, after it had been underdeveloped and undercapitalized for many years. The community had previously relied on mining for generations, so it has been very meaningful to me to be an integral part of the community’s revitalization and long-term economic wellbeing. We are not there to make money quickly and leave. We want to want to make sure that we create a positive impact and leave a legacy for generations to come.

How do you think this will change the world?

Every progressive organization must think of the long-term impact of its operations and the legacy it leaves behind. I strongly believe that if we take this approach to measure success then the world would be a better place. ESG adherence, management quality and long-term community impacts should be on every investor’s radar before they choose which companies to support. Likewise, companies must choose their investors as well. Shared vision is important — as to how and where that money is to be invested. We have turned down money from groups that did not share our values and approach at the time. I would also highly encourage companies to be more intuitive, to check in and listen to all stakeholders involved and to adapt their strategy so that its truly a win-win situation for all.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

I cannot pinpoint one specific example. However, we tend to form our values and ideals over time and (hopefully) apply them into our businesses. I strongly believe that we live at a time when we can highlight the positive effect that the field of mineral exploration and mining has. I have formed those observations from working closely with industry professionals and seeing how many industry players place great emphasis on ESG components. From a community development standpoint, we ensure that we give back to communities we operate and hire local talent. Mining is needed now more than ever as we transition towards clean energy and a green economy.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

For widespread adoption to happen, we need to spread the message through the right avenues. Positive media messages definitely help, as well as a mindset that is open to making money while doing good. We need to take a close look at business strategy in the long-term. It is important to maximize value for investors, while also ensuring that business decisions are mutually beneficial to all parties involved.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1-Find a good group of people you look up to and add value

The most important factor is ‘people’ that helps you get ahead in this industry. So, my best advice to the prospering industry professionals is to find individuals you can relate to, look up to, add value to them and see what happens. In my experience, it will open many successful avenues for you to grow.

2-Be ready for long hours and rough climates

Although this is a fun challenge and what drew me to the industry, it is certainly not a 9 to 5 job. Your investors are likely to live worldwide, so you have to adapt to their time zone. Mine sites are often found in deserts or extremely cold climates far away from the comfort of city life; you must be ready for all kinds of weather conditions. In the end, the rewards outweigh all cons.

3-Knowledge of science is essential, but your network is all the more important

You must have a strong understanding of all the technical and scientific parameters of the exploration and mining process, but you will likely have a dedicated team of geologists to streamline the process. As CEO, you will spend much time in the field and in front of investors. You must feel comfortable being in the spotlight and build relationships with investors and stakeholders. If you are not a people person, then this job is not for you.

4-You must be able to preview success and have ‘prophetic’ ability

You must have a sixth sense for potential and an insatiable hunger for success. Do your research well, but also go with your gut feeling and intuition when considering prospective projects or investors. Most of all, be ready to learn and grow.

5-You need to have a purpose. Money alone is not it.

Make sure that your goal and vision are clearly laid out, and never compromise those no matter what the temptations are. You will surely make money, but that in itself should never be a goal. Think of what you are doing differently and how your career is impacting the lives of others. It all comes down to how you want to be remembered at the end of your journey.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

I strongly believe that persistence is key to success. Every missed opportunity poses a learning experience and eventually leads to something bigger and better. The key is to observe, revisit and learn from past mishaps to inform your future decisions. It is also highly important to have your goals, vision, and boundaries clearly defined. Base your actions on how they impact those in your close circle and the larger community overall. To me, the need to succeed also stems from the need of making ‘good money and making a positive difference in this world, one project at a time.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would invite them to see Vizsla from a new perspective. We are rapidly becoming one of the world’s most important silver discoveries with incredible upside. Because of this, we may have the world’s most aggressive silver exploration and development program, and I think we can be in production faster than anyone expects. We are a team of forward thinkers who are highly invested in increasing shareholder value, minimizing risk while also placing great emphasis on ethical business and community development. Our Panuco Project is a district-scale asset with significant high-grade silver and gold discovery potential, containing more than 20 veins. Panuco already has substantial infrastructure, ideal location and our drill results continuously generate excellent results. Last but not the least, our engagement with the local community is solid and we share a strong collaborative relationship.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

We are very active on LinkedIn (@Vizsla Silver). We share company updates, industry news and insights, and published interviews frequently as we grow our investor base. You can also feel free to reach out to me on my personal LinkedIn for any advice, suggestions, or business inquiries. I make sure to respond to all inquiries on time and welcome all feedback.

Thank you for these great insights and for the time you spent with this interview. We wish you only continued success!


Vizsla Silver Corp: Michael Konnert: Big Idea That Might Change the World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

CohBar: Dr Joseph J. Sarret’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Don’t worry about things you can’t control. It sounds simple but can be surprisingly difficult — especially when the world around you is going crazy. But having the discipline to block out the noise and concentrate on what is within your control is essential.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change the World in The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Joseph J. Sarret.

Dr. Joseph J. Sarret joined CohBar (NASDAQ: CWBR), a clinical stage biotechnology company focused on the research and development of mitochondria based therapeutics, an emerging class of drugs for the treatment of chronic and age-related diseases, as Chief Executive Officer and Director in May 2021.

From 2019 until 2021, Dr. Sarret worked as a consultant in the life science industry, focusing on business development and corporate development activities. From 2015 until 2019, he served as Chief Business Officer at Corium International, Inc. (formerly NASDAQ: CORI), a biopharmaceutical company developing and commercializing transdermal healthcare products.

Prior to Corium, Dr. Sarret served in senior leadership roles at Solazyme, Inc. (formerly NASDAQ: SZYM) and Sevident, Inc. From 2005 to 2012, he held several executive management roles, most recently serving as Chief Business Officer at Codexis, Inc. (NASDAQ: CDXS), a publicly traded life sciences company developing novel enzymes for a variety of applications. Earlier in his career, Dr. Sarret worked as a practicing clinician focused on patients with human immunodeficiency virus and an attorney specializing in IP transactional work in the life sciences industry.

He received a B.A. in human biology from Stanford University, an M.D. from the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine and a J.D. from Stanford Law School.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

This wasn’t actually my first — or even second — planned career path. In fact, if you had spoken with me as I was graduating college and predicted I’d be running a biotech company, I would have said you were nuts! I started my career in medicine and when I completed medical school in the early ’90s, the HIV/AID epidemic was in full swing. After finishing my residency, I worked at a clinic devoted to treating HIV patients. At that time, HIV was the leading cause of death for all Americans aged 25 to 44, as there were no viable treatment options. By 1996, the FDA approved the first non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) drug, nevirapine, and by 1997, the antiretroviral therapy (HAART) became the new standard of HIV care. Over the course of a few short years, I witnessed firsthand the extraordinary impact that these new medications had on transforming the lives of HIV patients, enabling them to lead long and productive lives.

As rewarding as that experience was, I personally found practicing medicine to be isolating. I missed the collegial interaction and sense of teamwork I had enjoyed during my training. This led to a lot of soul-searching and as I’d always been interested in intellectual property, I decided to go to law school. After graduating law school, I specialized in complex IP transactions at a leading law firm with an active life sciences practice. While the experience was very collegial and challenging, I realized I didn’t love being an outside consultant. The work was very engaging, but you are not in a decision-making role. That led me to pursue business roles within life sciences companies, which eventually led to my post at CohBar where my background as a physician and attorney provides me with unique insight on understanding biotech and the critical importance of intellectual property, as well as the science behind the innovations and the factors that lead to adoption of novel therapeutics by clinicians.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

After leaving the law firm, I joined Codexis, an enzyme engineering company that applies its technology platform to develop proteins for a variety of applications. While initially focused on the pharmaceutical industry, I led an effort to expand the use of our technology in the energy sector, culminating in a relationship with Shell. Big Oil had never worked with biotech and vice-versa so success required bridging two very disparate cultures, learning new terminologies and a lot of active listening. We put together a feasibility project that ultimately led to a huge collaboration and Shell’s major financial investment in Codexis, which literally transformed the company. I am new to my post at CohBar but am confident there will be many interesting stories to come as we continue to grow the company.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

Don’t be afraid to make a change. Clearly, I have had a lot of different career changes and there was a lot of soul searching behind each one. Be true to yourself. If things are not working out, do something about it.

Don’t lose your humanity. Always be kind. You can be successful and still be a nice and caring person.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your company’s “Big Idea That Might Change the World”?

CohBar essentially created the category of mitochondria based therapeutics when CohBar’s founders, Dr. Pinchas Cohen and Dr. Nir Barzilai, discovered a class of peptides encoded within the mitochondria that affect metabolic regulation and protection. Drs. Cohen and Barzilai founded CohBar to build on their initial discovery.

The subsequent work by CohBar’s scientists to sequence and evaluate the mitochondrial genome has resulted in the discovery of over 100 peptides and over 1,000 peptide analogs. We then work to characterize the activity of these peptides, with the goal of developing them into therapeutic pharmaceutical products.

It turns out that many of these peptides are not acting directly on the mitochondria. Rather, they are secreted into the circulation, where they have important activities on diverse biological pathways, many of which are outside our initial focus on metabolic disease. This somewhat unexpected result is the real key to why this is such a powerful approach — CohBar is harnessing the power of the mitochondria and its billions of years of evolution to develop an emerging new class of potential drugs for the treatment of a wide range of chronic and age-related diseases.

By focusing on analogs of naturally occurring peptides, we expect our product candidates to have superior safety profiles, both substantially decreasing the development risk for our programs and providing patients and physicians with treatment options with fewer side effects.

Even though we’ve been at this for several years, we’re just scratching the surface of the full opportunity — the scope of potential applications is breathtaking.

How do you think this will change the world?

Through my experience working in an HIV clinic in the mid ’90s, I have seen firsthand how novel therapeutics with high efficacy and good safety profiles can impact the lives of patients in truly profound ways. I believe CohBar’s platform of mitochondria based therapeutics has the potential to do the same thing for patients suffering from a wide variety of chronic diseases.

For example, our lead compound, CB4211, is in the Phase 1b stage of a Phase 1a/1b clinical trial for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a leading cause of liver failure caused by a buildup of fat in the liver, and obesity. There are no currently approved drugs for NASH so there is a huge unmet need there. And more than one third of the US adult population is obese, so a positive outcome from our CB4211 program could provide significant help in reducing the obesity crisis.

Our second clinical candidate, CB5138–3, is initially targeting idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). This is a devastating interstitial lung disease that typically has an onset around retirement at age 65. These patients can rapidly lose lung function and the five-year survival rate is worse than many cancers. While there are two approved drugs that slow the progression of disease, both are poorly tolerated with significant gastrointestinal and/or skin issues. This is a good example where the expected favorable safety profile of our products could make a meaningful impact clinically. We plan to be in the clinic next year with this program.

We are also exploring whether our CB5138 Analogs could be used in other chronic fibrotic diseases such as systemic sclerosis. In addition to these programs, we have other preclinical programs targeting important conditions including acute respiratory distress syndrome and the more than 75% of cancers that overexpress the CXCR4 receptor.

As if that wasn’t enough, since mitochondrial dysfunction is one of the hallmarks of aging, we believe our mitochondria based therapeutics have the potential to impact an even wider range of chronic and age-related diseases, enabling people to live healthier longer.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

It’s hard to identify a drawback from treating chronic disease and increasing healthy lifespan. The number of individuals over the age of 65 worldwide is projected to double to 1.5 billion by 2050. If our novel mitochondria based therapeutics can increase healthy lifespans for even some of those seniors, we believe that will result in profound positive effects on society.

Was there a “tipping point” that led CohBar to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

Dr. Nir Barzilai details the founding of CohBar in his book “Age Later.” In 2001, Dr. Hassy Cohen was studying the link of growth hormones in prostate cancer when he came across a protein, which he realized was consistent with a sequence in the mitochondria. Previously, it was not known that the mitochondria were producing peptides. This discovery led to an entirely new field of biology, with many academics around the world studying these peptides and their functions.

CohBar was founded to take advantage of this new field of biology to provide novel treatments for patients in need with the goal of treating chronic disease and increasing healthy life span. Interestingly, the company’s name CohBar is derived from combining the first three letters from the last names of Dr. Cohen and Dr. Barzilai.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

Given the enormous potential of our product candidates, we believe that widespread adoption will occur as we continue to develop our pipeline. Having said that, as a relatively small pre-revenue biotech company, additional resources would enable us to accelerate development and expand the scope of our pipeline.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask what you think may be a ‘dumb’ question. It’s OK not to understand something — but if you don’t ask, you won’t learn.
  2. Focus is crucial. Focus is particularly important when you are working at a small company with limited resources. Don’t try to be everything for everyone, but prioritize and focus on the most important thing you have to accomplish that day, that week, that month, that year.
  3. Surround yourself with exceptional people. You will be challenged (in a good way) and learn more. At the end of the day, your team is one of the largest determinants of your ultimate success.
  4. Don’t worry about things you can’t control. It sounds simple but can be surprisingly difficult — especially when the world around you is going crazy. But having the discipline to block out the noise and concentrate on what is within your control is essential.
  5. Make sure to have fun! Life is precious. If you aren’t enjoying what you do, you’re probably doing the wrong thing.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

It’s important not to be afraid of change. Many people get caught in a rut and they are reluctant to take a risk. Listen to that inner voice advising you to try something new — with change comes opportunity and the chance to learn, engage, and reinvent yourself.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Leveraging billions of years of evolution, CohBar is a clinical-stage biotech company with a unique technology platform targeting multiple disease areas with high unmet need. While all of our product candidates originate from the mitochondrial genome, each peptide family is structurally unique with distinct mechanisms of action, providing us with multiple truly independent opportunities for success. By treating a wide range of chronic and age-related diseases, we have the potential to enable people to live longer, healthier and more productive lives.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

We invite your readers to visit us on LinkedIn or Twitter and to sign up for alerts on our website.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


CohBar: Dr Joseph J. Sarret’s Big Idea That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Prudential SVP Lata N. Reddy On How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

…First, an inclusive culture where everyone feels a sense of belonging will see significantly higher levels of employee engagement. We see this at Prudential through the data we capture on our own employee sentiment. And stronger employee sentiment leads to greater employee retention. Turnover, as anyone will tell you, can be a huge drain on resources if you’re constantly looking to recruit, train and retain new staff.

As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lata Reddy.

Lata N. Reddy is senior vice president of Inclusive Solutions at Prudential Financial and chair of The Prudential Foundation. In these roles, Reddy harnesses the power of capital markets to drive financial and social mobility. By combining diversity strategies, impact investments, philanthropy, corporate contributions and employee engagement with Prudential’s full business capabilities, she helps position the company to promote inclusive economic opportunity and sustainable growth.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Lata! Before we dive into the main part of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share a bit of your “backstory” with us?

I went to law school because of my interest in social justice. I had the chance to intern with justice advocate Bryan Stevenson, whose memoir became the 2019 movie “Just Mercy.” I was working with individuals who were incarcerated and on death row. That experience shaped my life in many ways. When I graduated, I started as a civil rights attorney, focusing on bringing high-quality education to all students, and I loved it. It checked all the boxes for what I wanted in a career — for a few years. Then I realized that I ultimately couldn’t achieve my mission by working on one case at a time. I wondered: How could I get to the underlying, systemic issues of civil rights challenges?

A friend suggested philanthropy and when I heard about an opening with The Prudential Foundation focused on transforming education in Newark, I had to apply. I didn’t know anything about working in philanthropy, or corporate America, or Newark. But the hiring manager took a chance on me based on my legal background, and I’ve been doing this type of incredible work ever since.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

Early in my time at Prudential, one of my responsibilities was to run our matched giving program, where employees could submit charitable donations and Prudential would match them. Back then, we had a much broader set of criteria for what could get matched, so employees got creative. One day I heard from an employee who had donated their horse to a nonprofit and wanted us to match the value of the horse. I spent hours of my life I’ll never get back finding someone who could essentially appraise a horse. I guess I’ve blocked out the amount we matched, but I do remember that we changed our giving criteria soon after that. The lesson: Expect the unexpected, because every day at work brings a new adventure!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you tell us a story about how that was relevant in your own life?

A friend told me when I first started at Prudential: “Remember who your friends are.” I took it to mean, be humble. When you’re in a role where you’re responsible for allocating money and resources to different causes, you can feel like the funniest, smartest, best-looking person in the room. And his point was: Don’t be confused. It’s never about you! It’s about your important work. So that was very grounding advice for me.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

My dad, Nallapu Reddy. He grew up in extreme poverty in rural India, in a society where being poor meant being marginalized. My father could easily have gone down a different path, but many people extended help at critical moments. This enabled him to pursue his dream of an education which he knew would open doors of opportunity. He went on to become a professor of economics and chair the Economics Department at the University of Michigan-Flint. It was there he spent his career educating first-generation college-goers like himself.

My father taught me what it’s like to face systemic barriers and what it takes to overcome them. It takes hard work, sure, but it also requires people who believe in you and recognize your humanity. His experience is part of what fueled my purpose to eliminate systemic barriers and help level the playing field.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

While others might also tell you this, our commitment to our stakeholders is truly unique, and that begins with the people of Newark, New Jersey. We have been committed to Newark — one of the most diverse cities in the nation — since our founding in 1875. While many fled following social unrest in the 1960s, we chose to stay and committed to do even more to close the racial wealth gap. We pledged to use all of our capabilities — through the full strength of our people, purchasing power, relationships, grants and investments — to help the city not only weather tough times, but build lasting resiliency. We’ve got a team of 45 full-time associates dedicated to our work in Newark. We engage with the community to help create the solutions they want to see. We’re in it for the long term, and we take pride in that.

Of course, there are also times of crisis that require immediate action. This has been especially true during the pandemic, when small businesses and residents have struggled so deeply. Prudential has waived rents for many of our small-business tenants in Newark. We also provided funds for laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots, and IT support for Newark families and students navigating the challenges of a remote learning environment.

But ultimately, our goal is to help to create a vibrant, thriving, livable, 24/7 city through a deep, longstanding commitment.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

How to measure the business impact of addressing societal challenges is very difficult. So I’m really excited about new work we’re doing to create a measurement and learning system to help us understand, with precision, what it takes to drive innovation for social and business impact. We’re building a completely bespoke framework that we can use to evaluate our efforts and determine whether it’s leading to change.

The racial wealth gap is a good example. That directly connects to Prudential’s purpose, which is to make lives better by solving the financial challenges of our changing world. We start by asking ourselves: What are the components of the racial wealth gap? Things like lack of quality affordable housing. Lack of high-quality education. Lack of pathways to quality jobs. Then we determine if we can play a meaningful role in those areas or help to plug a gap that others can’t. In some cases, it will be through a financial input, in other cases it will be through our own people, or a product or solution, or creating access to a specific industry. All of this will result in a variety of outcomes that we want to be able to measure with confidence. Sometimes we will have a demonstrable financial impact. Other times we will have an intangible impact — for instance, on employee engagement, which leads to productivity, risk mitigation, reputation and brand building. And then others will be almost entirely for societal benefit, but which are also vital to how we sustainably operate.

We are at a critical moment in history for this type of work. There is more buy-in and momentum than I’ve seen throughout my career. But we need to be precise about where we are directing our resources so that we can truly create lasting change. This work isn’t easy, but it is so important.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Everybody has a role to play, but I have found that the best way for me to contribute is to bring my personal purpose to the work. I try to use my privilege and my success to create pathways to opportunity. I’ve benefited from my parents, who had an extraordinary story of sacrifice and success. I feel a connection to the idea that “To whom much is given, much is required.” I’ve been fortunate that I have this large platform with which to try and bring goodness into the world, practically every day.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Increased diversity on its own won’t impact anything. Inclusion is a necessary precondition, and equity is an essential component. All together, they must be ingrained into every aspect of a business’s activities to get true bottom line results. This plays out in multiple ways:

First, an inclusive culture where everyone feels a sense of belonging will see significantly higher levels of employee engagement. We see this at Prudential through the data we capture on our own employee sentiment. And stronger employee sentiment leads to greater employee retention. Turnover, as anyone will tell you, can be a huge drain on resources if you’re constantly looking to recruit, train and retain new staff.

Second, diverse teams help companies improve the quality of policies, programs, and products. Individual’s lived experiences bring unique perspectives that round out how ideas are generated. We have connected our business resource groups (volunteer employees who are members and allies of various diverse communities) to various projects to help inform things like the employee on-boarding process and the ideation of new products and solutions. Through this connection, we can focus on the “moments that matter” for a broad group of employees and customers, something that’s only possible when you solicit a range of diverse perspectives.

Third, embedding an inclusive mindset can generate innovative approaches. As part of our company’s ongoing transformation, we asked all our employees to submit ideas to fuel our initiatives. We are embedding inclusion and racial equity from the moment those ideas are submitted into our idea portal. This will help us to develop products and solutions that can meet the needs of diverse customers, which leads to higher customer satisfaction and retention, and greater product adoption. And by designing products with relevance across customer groups we can enable greater financial inclusion and address systemic societal issues.

Fourth, authentic and deep-seated inclusion creates brand and reputational value. Increasingly, companies are being judged on how they engage on social issues — particularly over the course of the past year — and how they are embedding DEI into their business. In some cases, we are even being ranked against our peers on this. Anecdotally, we know that many people join Prudential because of how we show up in this space. Similarly, it’s important to customers who want to do business with companies that align to their values. To generate that brand and reputation value you must walk the talk. For example, this past year we have been embedding racial equity commitments into our talent practices and have been transparent with our employees and the public on how we’re working to level the playing field with our hiring and promotion processes. This helps us retain top talent, who then generate innovative ideas and do great work for the company. It’s a virtuous circle.

Lastly, taking inclusion outside our four walls and into the communities where we operate creates huge upside in terms of growth and prosperity. Our global headquarters is in Newark, NJ where we have been heavily investing to help close the financial divide and create opportunities for diverse business owners and residents. We have a symbiotic relationship with the community — if they are thriving and prospering, we too can thrive and prosper. As a big company we can’t operate in a vacuum, but rather we have an obligation to advocate for diversity and inclusion across the entire business ecosystem.

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive?

First and foremost, listen to your people. That means creating opportunities for them to share their thoughts, and then really listen to what they have to say. It also means valuing their lived experience. We need to give more credence to this. Our diverse associates are often the canaries in the coal mine — they know about issues before the media reports on them, because they’re living them.

I’d also say that it’s vital to care for the financial wellness of your associates. Financial strain can come from many sources, whether it’s dealing with an unexpected medical emergency, or caring for extended family or paying off student debt. We can’t assume everyone is financially resilient. At Prudential, we’re doing a lot of work to understand the financial wellness of our employees so we can meet them where they are.

What advice would you give to other business leaders about how to manage a large team?

Truly get to know and understand your team. It’s important to recognize the diversity they bring through their experiences and background, but equally critical to unlock the power of that diversity. One aspect is to acknowledge the intersectionality of your team. We can’t put people in one neat little category. Nor can we make sweeping generalizations about “communities” as if everyone in it is the same. We need to understand that we lead multifaceted existences. Role model being your authentic, intersectional self at work. And actively practice inclusive leadership. That’s how you can get the most out of your team.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

It’d be fun to share a meal with Padma Lakshmi — especially if she were the one to prepare it. We’ve chitchatted in the past, but I’d love the chance to tell her that I admire the way she’s opened the door to diverse cultures through food and I appreciate the way she uses her platform to advocate for social justice.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Prudential.com

Twitter: @latareddy

Thank you for these excellent insights. We wish you continued success in your great work.


Prudential SVP Lata N. Reddy On How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.