“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Throughout my career I set targets — build an agency, lead an acquisition, become the CMO of a startup — and then worked to check them off my career bucket list. After reaching all three of those targets, my new goal is to become a full-time board member and advisor. Looking back with hindsight at how I checked those other items off my list, it’s not just that I set specific future goals, but that I created a strategy to attain them.
Know your why
Advising early-stage companies through fast-growth, transition periods will, in many ways, take me back to my roots. It will also give me time to focus on other passions — mentoring women in business, traveling, spending time with family, and volunteering for organizations involved in fighting for immigrant detainee rights, racial justice, equality in education, voting rights, and the environment.
Set a roadmap. But be flexible.
I’ve given myself a three year window to explore this goal. Less experienced me would have said that I was giving myself that amount of time to attain my goal, but more experienced me knows better. I know things change, and I’ll learn a lot in each of the 12 quarters of this three-year period. I’m entering this timeframe with a clear set of intentions on where I want to be in three years but also with an open mind to let my interests and passions take me where I’m meant to go.
I broke the three-year window down, by setting goals for each year. Within those annual goals, I will set personal goals by quarter and institute a quarterly progress review to celebrate wins, learn from what didn’t work, and adapt the coming goals.
I’m in year one, focused on building out the foundation I’ll need to attain my goal. It’s explicitly not about making money yet; it’s about re-connecting across my network, building new relationships that will provide mentorship and resources, refining my value statement, and digging deep into my why to help me identify the companies with which I’d like to partner.
My year two goal is to get a strong roster of early-stage board and advising work under my belt with companies that can make best use of my skills and will best represent my mission-driven nature. Some may be paid, some equity based, and some volunteer.
My year three goal is to achieve a rhythm with my board and advising work such that it allows me to help mission-aligned businesses evolve strategically in the face of market changes, explore my other passions, and be appropriately compensated for this phase of my life.
People make the difference
Per my year one goal, I’m consciously cultivating a community that will help me work toward my goals while I also invest in their success. My community includes people I’ve turned to for years and amazing, new connections. I share the following real-life examples of how different women in my community are making contributions to my thinking, planning, and the execution of my strategy.
- Julia Sze is a finance-driven board member and dynamo. She and I are both advisors to Santa Fe Innovates, a business accelerator focused on the next generation of social entrepreneurs and startups in New Mexico. Julia planted a seed by telling me she thought I’d be a great candidate for board work. She connected me with Julie Castro Abrams of How Women Lead, and I signed up for their #GetOnBoard week. I was blown away. I learned so much. I spent much of the next six weeks having amazing conversations with the women in the HWL ecosystem, creating a connective tissue that would allow all of us to be fierce advocates for each other for years to come.
- During the same period, I also reconnected with a long-time friend and colleague, Fiona Tang, and learned more about her groundbreaking organization, Him For Her. Him For Her is focused on building diversity on for-profit boards and brokers warm introductions between female board candidates and CEOs. Fiona offered great guidance on where to spend my time in year one, namely to reconnect with C-Suite and board-level people with whom I’ve already worked to share what I’m looking for and the immediate value I can provide.
- The Portfolio Life blog post and guidance of another San Francisco to Santa Fe transplant, Jodi Morris, gave me a new way to frame this period of my life and career. It tweaked my thinking from a singular focus on board work to a broader vision about how to create the portfolio career of my dreams. Taking Jodi’s advice, I’m working to find the common thread between the kinds of companies I’ve always loved working with, the massive wave of change represented by new industries and innovations, and my personal passions.
- Another HWL connection who helped me immensely in clarifying my goals is Adriana Azuri from The Azuri Group. We are working together to create my board profile and documents. Her approach to helping you align your personal goals and experience with the needs of the market to create a strong value proposition has also really helped me articulate the two things that are most critical for me as I look for board roles right now: values & culture match and board & CEO chemistry.
Collective community wisdom helped me distill my goals:
- I want to partner with companies that are working on innovations that will help real people live better lives. This can take place via consumer technology, educational transformation, or the emerging cannabis market, but in every case, I can help companies understand the needs of consumers, find product-market fit, and build positioning, stories, and products that garner not only attention but evangelism.
- I want to believe in the executives and what they’re doing. I want to feel like they are running their company in a way that celebrates diversity in both gender/race as well as in values and life experience. I want to work with people that get value out of what I can bring to the table.
With these goals in place, my priorities for the rest of the year are:
- Gathering hands-on experience via the boards and advisory roles I already have
- Community building and advocacy
- Content creation and sharing to build thought leadership around innovations that help real people live better lives
All the while, I’ll give myself time to explore new ideas and avenues when they come up. To make sure this exploration mindset doesn’t lead to “shiny object syndrome,” I’m a big believer in calendaring time around each of the key priorities above. I’ve created recurring weekly blocks for each company and organization I work with as well as specific community, content, and new ideas time. Sometimes these focus times need to move to allow for board meetings or family needs, but my Q1 focus will be to keep them on the calendar either way.
In three years, I hope to report that I have a stable docket of compensated board work. Whether I’ve reached that milestone or not, I know I will have an amazing community and will have helped some interesting tech companies and executives working to change the world for the better. And, as Oprah Winfrey said: “I don’t believe in failure. It’s not a failure if you enjoyed the process.”