My Career Story
Let me tell you my career story, and it starts off pretty darn... 1980's, back in the day. Yeah, I'm old, folks. (laughing) So I wanna say I did the double degree. I got an undergraduate degree in political science and economics. Why did I do that? I didn't know what I wanted to do. I had an expectation from my family, from my network, that you would get a degree and then you would get a professional degree. Law was a good choice. I didn't have to do the stats and the math associated with a business degree, and I had no interest in medicine. But you're also hearing what I'm saying which is I thought I had three career options. What my network, what my... I wanna say my immediate sphere around me, what they saw is what my options were. And I believed that too. So I did the right thing. I went off to law school, University of British Columbia, moved to Toronto, and did what you needed to do to be a good lawyer. And I'm gonna take a pause there because there's a lot from back here. So 199...
1, for those watching and in the room who remember 1991, we didn't have mobile phones. We didn't have the internet. Knowing how to use computers meant word processing. All the women are like nodding and shaking their heads. They're like... You know what that meant, that meant like glorified secretary at the time, right? All that kind of stuff. But let me... This is why this part of my career is really relevant and why I focus on it. So lawyers, we've always said, practice law. It is a career that is a journey of learning. There's no destination of ultimately being a lawyer. Even the Supreme Court has got clerks to study the law. And thinking about the law, you're never done honing your craft. It's a profession that is known for its expertise. It was a profession when... I'm gonna say I stepped into back in 1991, that maybe there's some old values I still cling onto really hard. We didn't advertise. We didn't market. Your marketing was your work, your work product. Your marketing was what others said about you. It was word of mouth. It was reputation. See where I'm going with this? Think about what everyone's trying to achieve today. They want word of mouth. They want reputation. It was where are you focused on your craft and continually learning. That's what I learned to do. It was relentlessly client-focused. What do we talk about now in terms of the start-up world? Audience. Are you listening to your audience? What audience listening tools? How can you connect with your audience? That's what we did as lawyers. That's the way I was trained in a profession, and that's the way I was trained to do business development and marketing in that profession. And the funny thing, that kind of muscle doesn't go away, and you realize if you still use that, years later, it's what you come back to. So there I was happily practicing law. Really, I was. Any other former lawyers out there? I really enjoyed practicing law until I didn't. And I didn't because though I was at a great firm and I had a work schedule that I had structured in terms of a flex-work schedule. I had amazing clients, clients who I'm still in touch with to this day. One of them actually picked the cover for my book so I really did enjoy it. But there was something missing. And I did one of those kind of lay a piece of paper down on two sides of it: What do you like about your job? What don't you like about your job? What color's your parachute? Or the yes-list, the no-list, I did one of those, and what I realized: I loved the environment. I loved being around really driven people. I loved being around A-types. But I needed to do something else within that environment. And I hit on moving into the management side of a law firm, and particularly doing talent development. So you may be thinking, "Well, Kelly, that's easy. "You're on this side of the law firm ledger, "and you just wanna step over here. "What's the problem?" There's a big old chasm there. That was word-of-mouth jobs. They were jobs that were not advertised. They were jobs that were not at every firm. And I looked at my network in 2001 and said, "I don't have it. "I have a really wonderful network of investment bankers "and other lawyers who do the type of "corporate finance work I do. "I don't have anything else. "I've got people I used to practice law with in Toronto "might have done some different things." I didn't have the network. And I made a really big aha realization at that point. There's two types of networks we have. One is very narrow and deep. That's where you have your expertise network. That's where you find your mentors. That's where you call someone and say, "Oh, shoot, I've got a garage sale on the weekend "and no one to help me. "Can you show up at my house at seven o'clock tomorrow?" Think about the people you could call on that last minute emergency, people who you could call and say, "How do I do this? "How do I get a book published? "How do I..." Who's got that deep expertise? That's that one network, and I had that. I didn't have the other one which is the broad, narrow or shallow network. That's the one that cuts across industries, job titles, experience, gender, age, sexual orientation, you name it. And it's that other network that gets your name traveling far. It's that other network that spills up opportunities. And I made that aha moment at that point that's like great. It's great to have niche networks. It's great to have the depth of this, but you need to have both. So I aggressively went out and built this new network that initially was broad, shallow, 'cause I hadn't worked a lot with these people, didn't know them, but I had to build reputation. And I did that aggressively, but also I said, "You know what? "I'm never putting myself in this position again. "This is dangerous." If you wanna talk about your anxiety with networking, we talked about the anxiety of walking into a room with strangers or the anxiety of getting stuck at a cocktail party talking to the schmoozy person who we don't want to talk to. Right? What's more dangerous and more scary is to realize you don't have this other network there because you haven't cultivated it. You haven't intentionally made sure that you had this range across your network. And I'm not meaning to scare people, but let me scare you. It took me 18 months. Yes, it was post 9/11. It was kind of a sucky job market in New York City at the time. The job I was looking for was word of mouth. Positions didn't come up all that often. But it took 18 months 'cause it was word of mouth, and so much of what we do today is still word of mouth. "Hey, you should hire. "You should use. "Let me refer you to. "Have you talked to?" That's based on reputation. And you can figure it. I figured out really quickly, probably in three or four months, who I needed to talk to. Then I just had to wait for the opening. That meant nurturing and cultivating relationships until 18 months later, I landed the job. So build that network. Build that network before you need it. Some other aha moments that happened: When I finally landed the job that... You sort of saw my career path. Lawyer to law firm management. You're like, "Kelly, this is still really traditional "and boring. "You haven't convinced us yet "that you're the one that knows this networking thing." When I landed that job in law firm management, I had an external network. I had a fabulous external network in the industry that gave me insights. So I knew I needed to continue to cultivate that. I was given a role in a global law firm with terrific responsibility. Some of the most important work in the firm because it was your talent. And in a law firm, at the end of the day, if you don't have great lawyers, you're not putting out really good product. And I had no staff and no budget to get a lot done. So how do you get stuff done in those situations? I could flip back to Joe Stiler. You build and cultivate relationships with your colleagues. And I made sure I met with everyone face to face the first time they called me. If I could replace a phone call with a face-to-face meeting, if I could tell that someone wasn't on email... Back in the day, it was Blackberries. They weren't on their Blackberry. I knew they were in their office. I went and met with them because I needed to build those relationships. I figured out what all my peers were doing because I knew I needed their help to get done and achieve my goals. So that was a really big aha moment in terms of, right, you gotta have this external reputation. That might be the one that gives you the competitive advantage. What are your competitors doing? What's going on in the market? What's the best practice so you can bring it back to your own place of work or to your own start-up, your own company. But also, who do you show up next to every day? And if you're watching this thinking, "Well, Kelly, that's nice. "You were in a big, global law firm." Well, do you work at a coworking space? Do you go to an office of shared space every day? Do you sit in an office space that maybe you're next to other start-ups or other small business owners? Understand what they're doing because there might be ways for you to help each other. And that is your equivalent of my internal network. So that was one of the aha moments. Within my five and a half years of law firm management, I then moved out of training and development, and I moved into marketing. Maybe other people have been in this position: I had... You know you sort of finally reach the pinnacle. You've got a staff. You've got budget. You've got responsibility. And they give you a new job, and they take all that away again. (laughing) So I moved down into the marketing to lead a global initiative to build an alumni program, and I moved out of an... I even had an office with a door that closed, and they moved me down to a cubicle. Like, I mean, seriously. (laughing) People used to say to me in that role, they'd say, "Kelly, we need to talk to your people." And I'd say to them, "I am my people. "What do you need?" So I moved into this new role, and I needed to build an alumni program so I needed to really get into the DNA of that particular firm's alumni so I could figure out how I could build something based on human behavior, human motivation. And I needed to look at examples of how other people had done that because I did not have the carrot of parties and law firm shwag and anything else to throw at alums of this firm to build a community. So one of the things I did was I looked and saw where were very successful, voluntary communities. And one of the most successful at the time, so this was back in, let me think, 2007-2008. One of the most successful voluntary communities at the time was a global business women's network called 85 Broads. It's now known as Elevate. Janet Hanson started 85 Broads as an informal alumni group out of Goldman Sachs. And Goldman Sachs' address at the time was 85 Broad Street, hence the tongue-in-cheek 85 Broads. And this network was just for women. Her very first alumni event, sort of informal alumni event she did, was whether it was a hundred, 120 women in the room, bunch of gatecrashers who were women who were currently working at Goldman Sachs who said, "That's nice. "You're having a party, Janet. "We wanna be there too." And by the time I became a member, it was 35,000 women globally who said, "Sign me up." She opened the network broadly so this wasn't just Goldman Sachs churning out lots of women. This was now a global business network for really driven executive and entrepreneurial women. So this is like self-motivated to join and engage. What was going on with any of the markets where 85 Broads has a presence was volunteer-driven. And I was like, "You know what? "This is a model for me 'cause in the role I'm in, "I need the members. "I need the former employees of this firm "to be motivated to make things happen "because I've got no staff and budget." I can't go to someone and say, "We're gonna have a great alumni program, and I need X," because I knew I was gonna get a no. All they wanted to know was I could get something done. So I was like, "You know what? "I need this. "I need to understand this." So I became a member of 85 Broads, and this was where this big aha moment hit. All of us can join. We can sign up for LinkedIn. We can join Twitter. We can join a trade association. We can join a chamber of commerce. We can join Elevate. We can go on and on all those groups. We can slide our credit card and put our name and say we're a member. But how do you show up? And what do you do? And part of my motivation, and this may be some of this where it gets on networking, where when I say you need to be intentional and deliberate and purposeful, people kind of go, "Ugh, that's like..." Eww, that gets to that icky feeling. But sometimes you're more authentic when you do that in this way. When I think about it with my involvement with 85 Broads, when you show up and you know that your interests are aligned... I showed up at 85 Broads and said, "I need to learn. "I need to gather information, "and the only way for me to do that "is by rolling up my sleeves and being the best damn member "of this network that I can be. "And I need to understand why other people do this. "And I need to understand what's going on with them." So I just didn't show up and sort of say, "Let me observe and then ask some questions." Or, "Hey, Janet, can I pick your brain? "Tell my why your network works." No, I showed up. I used the website. I posted blogs. I had a full profile. I went to their breakfasts. I saw what was going on. I said, "How can I get more involved?" Because part of it was my personal self-interest. I need to understand what's going on. I'm gonna put my hand up right there. I was unabashedly self-interested. But my self-interest helped them. I got other people to join. I was enthusiastic. I asked questions. So what happened six months later, after joining 85 Broads: Sitting at my office, my law firm... Not my office, my cubicle. Sorry, my little cubicle. I'm sitting there in my cubicle, and I get a phone call from Janet Hanson. She wanted to know who I was, more so than what was on my profile and what she'd heard from other people, what it was that I was doing, my thoughts on networks and community. And we talked for close to an hour. And at the end of that hour, she said to me, "Would you come "and do what you're doing for me?" At the end of an hour, I was offered a job, President of 85 Broads, the very first president of that global network. I was offered a job that previously had never existed. And I would venture to say, I bet didn't exist when Janet made the phone call. It was in the course of that conversation. But she heard things about me. She heard how I was involved. She liked the questions I was asking. She saw a skill set. She saw an interest. She saw an enthusiasm. She needed to know more. My reputation had preceded me, and that was that really massive aha moment. Aha moment that we can be a little self-interested, and that's okay. That aha moment that you can promote your own interests. That aha moment that you know what? We're all, particularly in this digital age, there's a lot of democratization of networking. We can all join organizations like 85 Broads. We can all have a LinkedIn profile. But how you choose to use it, how you choose to engage, that's all in your hands. So what are you gonna do? Sit back and wait to be asked? Or take the bull by the horns? Oh, the things when I think back, the things that I was posting, the things that I was sharing, the ways I was involved with 85 Broads, was a way that I thought would be of interest, yes to me, but also to the women and the members of that organization. I wasn't blogging about cookie recipes on that site 'cause that's not the place to do it. They wanted career. They wanted business. They wanted, "How do I get on a corporate board?" So that's the things I would talk about over there. So when you think about this, your own self-interest doesn't mean coming in and ignoring what everyone else is talking about. Say, "Right, where's this alignment?" So that was like one of those massive, big aha moments. But it also goes back to where I started my career in honing my craft, relentless focus on the clients, on everybody else, and spreading that word of mouth. And that pattern repeats itself. So that happened again. I was president of 85 Broads for a year. Janet... Some of my entrepreneurial muscle that got exercised a little bit when I was a lawyer and in law firm management, well, that got a big boost from Janet and 85 Broads. And so after a year of being president, I thought, "You know what? "This is gonna feel like a job. "I'm gonna get out there and do my own thing." So probably like a lot of people, sort of figuring out where you land, and I kind of wondered in the wilderness for a year trying a little of this, trying a little of that, consulting in professional services, doing some things with start-ups, doing some more things with start-ups. And then I got a phone call from a couple of women who said, "We have this idea for a start-up accelerator, "and every time we talk to somebody about it "we describe what we need in a third co-founder. "We want someone who has this experience, "this skill set, this..." There's their job description. They sort of had this, I'm gonna say it was almost like they could taste it. They had this visual description of what they imagined somebody else to help them build this start-up accelerator that was gonna focus on mobile and mobile-first venture with gender-diverse founding teams. And every time they talked to people about it, guess what happened. My name kept coming up, and it didn't matter who they talked to. My name kept coming up. Didn't matter if it was someone from Wall Street or it if was someone from the start-up world. And I hadn't been in the start-up world that long. My name kept coming up. And that's how I became the co-founder of a start-up accelerator. Not some great brilliant idea on my behalf, but rather, people knew my skill set. So some of this, when you talk about your self-interest, you should be so self-interested in telling people clearly and with intent and with purpose what you're interested in and what skill sets you wanna be found for and what's the experiences that you want. Because then you're network is gonna be able to feed that to you. So don't feel like, "Oh, my God, I... "No, no, no." Do it, do it, do it, do it. And you can do that by adding value to other people. So I did the start-up accelerator thing. The final big sort of aha moment that I really want people to take away and think about was, and this happened 2014. So as part of a start-up accelerator... Like I said, when I was 85 Broads, I had started blogging on their platform, and I continued to do that on LinkedIn when I had the start-up accelerator. I started to, I wanna say, publish a newsletter and blog and write as a way of marketing through content the start-up accelerator. And in doing that, sort of took my expertise, my knowledge, my experience from all this other kind of jumble of stuff and pulled it into this new field. When we discontinued the start-up accelerator and we jumped forward to 2014, I sat back and I really started paying attention to now you can see this rather jumbled up network that I had. I still had my friends from my law days. I still had my friends from my law management days, my legal marketing days. I had this network of executives from 85 Broads. I had volunteer work. I had learned my lessons from 2001. I made sure I had all these people connected in some way, shape, or form. And I sat back, and I thought to myself, "What do I hear? "What are they asking me for? "What's the pattern that keeps repeating?" 'Cause here's the lesson in the aha moment: Sometimes your network sees more in you than you see in yourself. Tina Roth-Eisenberg, known as Swiss Miss, she's the founder of Tattly, those gorgeous temporary tattoos, Creative Mornings. I could go on and on with her businesses. Every single one of them has been started because of something her network saw in her, believed in, encouraged her, said, "We want to collaborate. "Let's jump on this." So I'm not alone in having this moment of sit back and listen to your network. What are they asking you for? And I realized, whether it was lawyers, whether it was my colleagues when I was in management, whether it was these executives, accomplished people from Wall Street who moved into start-ups, everyone wanted to know the same thing: "How do you build a network, Kelly? "How do you network? "How can I?" I moved to New York, well, it's 20 years ago this year. I knew five people when I moved to New York City. The fact that people wanted to tap my network, I had one of those: You know what? Let's switch this up. Rather than me giving away my network, let me tell them how to build my network. I always jokingly say, "Moved to New York 20 years ago, "knew five people. "One is my now ex-husband, "and the four others were his friends." So if I didn't build a network, this would not be a very good moment for me at this time in my life in so many ways. Anyway, so in 2014, I sort of said, "Oh, what does everyone ask me for?" And they ask me for networking advice. And I think, then just the world and the universe, just to make sure I was paying attention to what it was my real skill and what I really should be doing. I had several other people ask me for insights on networking on their books on networking because they said, "Kelly, you're the guru's guru "on networking." And I sort of went, "Hold on a minute. "If I'm like the expert's expert, "maybe I should write my own book." From behind the curtain, let's come out front. And that's when I said, "I'm gonna write a book." And when I originally told people this was what I wanted to do, 'cause some of this stuff... Let's go back to our anxiety with networking. If we've got a goal or an ambition or a need, we need other people to help us, and that's really being vulnerable and scary. And you wanna make it happen. And you don't know if it is. And when I decided I wanted to write a book, I would tell people in a very quiet voice. It's like so funny to admit it now. And I'd say to them, "I think I want to do this." And they were like, "Oh, thank God, Kelly. "We've been waiting for you to finally write this book." And that's how I got to where I am today. So, yes, this whole way of looking at networking is yeah, it's my story, but as I've already said it's a whole lot of other people's stories.