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Ladies and gentlemen, my guest on today’s show is an innovative leader and passionate advocate for change. Kristy Wallace is the CEO of Ellevate Network and is responsible for executing Ellevate Network’s mission to close the gender achievement gap in business by providing professional women with a global community to lean on and learn from. Kristy is also host of the Ellevate Podcast. We dive straight into the power of networking and how to do it effectively. We discussed the concept of a personal brand and how important it is to cultivate one intentionally, noting that one’s brand must change over time. I asked Kristy about recent guests on the very popular Ellevate Podcast and asked what we can expect to hear when we tune into the live stream of Ellevate’s Summit on June 21st. This year’s Summit is called Mobilize Women, so let’s get into it. Oh Kristy, thank you so much for coming on When Women Win. I’m delighted to have this time with you.
Kristy Wallace: (01:07)
Yes, thanks for having me. This is great, Rana.
So you run the world’s premier business women’s network. Let’s start with networking. What is it to you?
Kristy Wallace: (01:17)
Oh, networking is such a critical element of our society because it comes down to relationships. Well humans, we thrive on those personal connections. But when you think about how you can be very intentional about your connection, so the people that you meet, that you work with, that you get to know outside of your immediate family or your immediate community, it opens up a world of opportunities. So the power of networking is not just connecting to potential jobs, potential investors, or board opportunities. It’s opening your mind to new ideas. Gaining perspective and diversity of thoughts from others that are in your network, but outside of your traditional space and it’s also just support. The power of that support. As a business leader, I lean on my network all the time as a great way to connect with other business leaders and share insights, advice, tips, and tools that help us all succeed.
Yeah and networking really is helpful at every level. I mean, whether you’re a business leader or somebody starting out in the corporate world or indeed an entrepreneur, is that right?
Kristy Wallace: (02:29)
Oh, absolutely. So networking has become a bit easier depending on how you look at it the past couple of years with social media because it’s easier to stay in touch with your network to know what they’re up to, to stay top of mind. I think on the flip side of that, we can get a little complacent when it comes to networking and you can consider a network, just all the people who follow you or who you’re connected with online, but the power still managing those relationships and putting the work and the effort into them. So earlier in my career when the Internet was not as prominent, it really took, you know, the intent to stay in touch with my peers from school, my friends, and I’m so happy I did because that led to job opportunities. One of my first jobs in the Internet space came from a friend from college who was working there and an opportunity came about and she thought of me and she gave me a call and said, you have to come work here and I said, absolutely not. It was a sales role and I was not interested in doing that and she said, you absolutely have to. You will love this company, it will change your life and so she convinced me and I took the job and it absolutely changed my life and it was a great experience.
Kristy Wallace: (03:55)
So, you know, the power of your network is the people that know you, that kind of can know some of the things that you don’t even see herself but that was probably 20 years ago that that happened and now, you know, later on it’s continuing to happen and I’m continuing to find my network being my biggest champions, my biggest supporters, and connectors to opportunity.
And running Ellevate and running all these networking events that you do that we do globally at Ellevate, do you see that women kind of find the concept of networking a little bit difficult to handle or a bit intimidating?
Kristy Wallace: (04:39)
Oh, absolutely and networking means many different things to different people. But yes, the idea of walking into a big room where you don’t know anyone and jumping into a conversation and introducing yourself and starting a dialogue is terrifying for many people and I get that. It’s actually, I run a network, but it’s terrifying to me. I’m a bit of an introvert. I love making connections. I love conversations, but it’s hard to just jump right into something and so it’s important as we think about networking, you know, if you are attending in person events, bring a buddy, bring a friend. That really helps me all the time when I go with somebody else. In particular, someone who’s not as, you know, shy about jumping into conversations. Know your opening line, you know, just if it’s a question or if it’s, you know, something about current events, the weather, whatever it is. But so that when you join a conversation, you feel like you’ve got that, you know, that first question out there that can start a start a dialogue that then becomes more natural and easier to manage. But networking is also, you know, who are the connections, you have online. How do you engage with them on social media, share their content, comment on content, you know, how do you continue to reach out to people on a one on one level if it’s scheduling coffees or meetings or even sending them a quick note. So I try every day as I’m reading a few different publications, including Ellevate, Ellevate has a daily newsletter. As I read them, I look for articles or information that I can quickly share with somebody else and it’s a great way to make a quick connection to say hi, to share something of relevance and that’s a little tip that I’ve been doing for some time now and I find it a great way to stay engaged with my network.
Oh, so that, Kristy you mean sort of if you met someone recently and you go through the newsletter and you see if there’s anything that they might find interesting?
Kristy Wallace: (06:55)
Yeah, yes, yes, yes, yes. So if it’s someone who is, you know, starting a business and maybe I see a great article on top tips for entrepreneurs or maybe if it’s someone who is in the middle of career transition or if it’s someone who’s just really passionate about the specific topic or specific space or if it’s just an article I think is interesting. But it’s a great way if you kind of set aside a few minutes every week to make sure that you are sending quick emails. That you’re engaging on social media, liking others content and information, and then maybe attending a networking event depending on your schedule and, you know, where you are geographically. If it’s once a week or once a month, then you can really invest in your network in cultivating, growing, and engaging your network in very easy and manageable ways.
And you mentioned something which was when you walk into the room, you know, your opening line or how you pitch yourself. Let’s talk a little bit about that, about your elevator pitch or your personal brand. How do people work on that? How do we cultivate that?
Kristy Wallace: (08:11)
Yeah, your personal brand is so important and I don’t think it’s something we think about enough, right? When you think about a, you know, a car brand for example, everyone knows that such and such is just a reliable car or, you know, that this clothing brand is high end. You know, we’ve got these descriptors that when you hear a name, immediately you have an association with a brand characteristic that you can say, okay, that’s what this is, that’s who this is. So it’s the same for us as individuals and as business professionals which is your brand. When you’re not in the room, what are people saying about you? And thinking about that in a way that you become more in control of what that narrative is and what people say and aware of what people say. So if you’re not in a room and a discussion’s being had about an upcoming panel opportunity and maybe it’s in you know, the entrepreneur space, are the people going to say, oh, you know what, Jane is an expert at this. She is so passionate. We should get her on the panel or within the workplace. If it’s about a new project and it’s, well, Joan is incredibly innovative and a great team player. Let’s bring her into this project. Your network is connections to so many opportunities and so back to when I was talking earlier about sharing relevant articles or news or content with my network, it’s because those are the people that stand out to me with their brand. It’s the people that I’m like, oh, I know that so and so is really fascinated with Bitcoin or passionate about being an efficient leader or about social impact or whatever it is, and you start to know what are the things they care about? What, how do they work? What are they trying to achieve? And so for you as yourself, how do you think very thoughtfully about who are you, how do you want others to be talking about you, and how does that then connect to the opportunities that you’re looking for?
Yeah. Cause this is not something that you could just leave to chance, right? Cause you have to create it intentionally. Your brand, if you want to be known as the passionate woman’s advocate, for example, or the, you know, the Bitcoin expert, whatever it is, you really want to be able to cultivate it yourself. To own your own brand, right?
Kristy Wallace: (10:50)
And your brand is a mix of many things. It could be your hobbies, your interests, your strengths, your personality traits. It all comes together and it could be a mixture of those. Say you have five different key brand elements, so you could be a really innovative hard worker that is passionate about gender equality and an amazing networker. Right? And so all of those words come to mind when someone’s talking about you, when they’re thinking about you and so we go oftentimes think day to day and internet working situations and just to our careers and our lives and we’re not stopping enough to think, okay, who am I? How do others see me? Is that how I want to be seen? What am I looking for? What’s next for me? What are the opportunities I want and how do I make sure that my mind, my name, my brand is associated with that when it comes up? And so you need to, you know, back to your initial question around the elevator pitch. It’s for everyone you’re meeting. The connections you’re making. How do you talk about, you know, hi, I’m Kristy Wallace. I’m an incredibly innovative leader, passionate about gender equality, and eager to share my thought leadership with others. You know, and you start to talk about that brand and when you have that elevator pitch that incorporates what you want and who you are, it’s a great way to then ensure that you’re owning that brand and that opportunity and that identity.
Yeah. You know, I worked for GE for many years and so many of our training courses were about our elevator pitch. What’s your elevator pitch? What’s your elevator pitch? You know, it’s really important to keep honing it and updating it as well, I think and for those listeners who don’t know what it is, it’s your 60 seconds in the elevator with somebody who could change your life. You don’t know and you get the opportunity to tell them who you are, what you’re about, and what you want and who knows what happens from there.
Kristy Wallace: (13:11)
Absolutely and it will change. I’m sure we’ve both seen, Rana, that, you know, what my brand was in my twenties is different than my thirties and different in my forties and that’s great. I mean, we as humans change, right? We evolve. Our lives become more complex in different ways and so there was a time early in my career where I just worked really hard. I was heads down. That’s how, what my brand was, I owned that. I was very aware of it. It’s just a wanted to be the hard worker. The person who is going to get things don and it served me very well and I moved up in my career very quickly. But then there became a time whe I, you know, had gotten married and I was about to have my first child and I was forced to think about how do I marry who I am today with who I’ll be in the future and is this still the brand I want? Is still what I want from life? So I decided to take a few months off after I had my first son to figure that out and it was such a hard, this is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done because suddenly my identity and my brand went from being really hard worker, go getter, high potential to I was a stay at home mom and I loved, you know, I have three children now. I love it. I think being home with your kids is one of the greatest honors and joys that someone can have, but it’s a big shift from when all you’re thinking about is how do I get ahead in my career in this company and so for me it was complete identity shift and I didn’t even know how to talk about myself anymore. How do I talk about myself to other people? How did I describe who I was and what I was doing? So, such this shift from talking about myself and from having this brand of being that go getter, being that high potential to now a completely different narrative and how did I talk about who I was? What was my elevator pitch? What were my asks? And so then when I started working again at a different tech company that was earlier stage and my role was different, it was really exciting to think about that, okay, how do I want to be known in this company? In this space. In this industry. How am I going to get my name out there? How am I going to really feel confident in what that brand identity is? And then how do I continue to grow my network within this new space that will benefit me in new ways and connect me to new opportunities. So your network and your brand go very hand in hand, but they do change over time and that’s the exciting part about it is to open up new doors, new opportunities in very meaningful ways.
Yeah and that’s a point I’d really like to make to the listeners. Your brand will change and that’s okay. What you want will change and that’s also okay. That’s, that should happen. That’s totally fine. You know, because I think there’s a lot of stress on us to think, well what do I want as though once we decide that it’s fixed in stone forever. But in fact it’s totally okay that it changes over time and I had a similar situation to you, Kristy, you know. The years in the corporate world, you know, put my head down, etc. Work hard and as Marshall Goldsmith would say, you know, what got you here, won’t get you there. Right? So it serves you for a period of time and then you need to change. It’s not just that it’s okay that it changes. All right, let’s shift gears Kristy a little bit and go and talk a little about Ellevate itself. You host the Ellevate podcast and how I think it’s pretty frequent, right? It’s more than a weekly show, isn’t it?
Kristy Wallace: (17:18)
It is weekly right now but it’s very popular. So we may be growing into some, either doing some spinoff podcasts or maybe increasing the frequency. We’ll see.
Okay, wow and could you give us some examples of things you’ve learned over the past couple of weeks?
Kristy Wallace: (17:36)
Yes. So we started the Ellevate podcast initially because Ellevate is a global community of professional women and we wanted to tell more stories. Career paths are not linear. They’re not straight lines. We all have different experiences and insights and we wanted to make sure we’re getting that out there. We’re providing inspiration and community to the much broader community of professional women and so over time we’ve had the great honor, I’ve had the great honor of meeting some phenomenal guests, including you, Rana.
You’re very kind. Thank you.
Kristy Wallace: (18:14)
Just share powerful insights around their journey and the things that they’ve experienced along the way. We recently, so coming up in the next on June 21st actually is the Ellevate Summit and the summit, and this will come back to the podcast, so I promise you I’ve not completely lost my train of thought but the summit is the Mobilize Women Summit and it’s really focused on driving action around equality. How can we be the advocates, the change makers for equality within our personal lives, our communities, our workplaces, our world, and a big part of getting towards equality is understanding where other people are coming from, the experiences they’ve had, and convening all those voices together to talk about action and change. So at the summit we have women who have disabilities and talk about what that means for them in the workplace and in the world. We have women from all different racial groups and backgrounds, transgender women in science and technology, women in business, women who are CEOs of companies, women who’ve just started companies. We have many men too because it’s not just about women creating change, it’s about all of us being part of that solution and so some of the recent guests on the podcast is getting back to the summit because we had many of our upcoming guests that have been on the podcast the past couple of weeks as a great way to get to know them better and help our audience learn more about them. Would say as a quick note, if anyone is inspired by the Ellevate summit, what I just talked about as I am, you can watch it on live stream. We have a free livestream, so if you go to EllevateNetwork.com, you can sign up. So one of our speakers who was just recently on the podcast is this incredibly inspiring woman, Amber Baldet, who had been working at JP Morgan, really getting into the block block chain space, and is now gone out on her own and is a cofounder and CEO of Clover. So how does she make that transition similar to what you’ve done, Rana, around moving from this corporate America and taking all that you learn and owning this theme, this brand into the next stage of your career which can have that more entrepreneurial bent? Commissioner, I was just speaking with Commissioners Charlotte Burrous who is more based in the US, is the commissioner for the US equal employment opportunity commission. So it’s so interesting to think about how gender and action in equality is spanning across government, business, social activism, nonprofits, communities. So that was really powerful. There is also Mike Steib. He’s the CEO of XO group and one of the reasons Mike is speaking at the Ellevate summit, and this is great, is he’s a huge proponent for women and runs a company where he is a leader who’s driving equality within his company, within his space. He’s a huge supporter of his wife who is a c-suite leader in an entrepreneurial environment. So how does that being an advocate and an ally for women transcend into the home and outside of work into the home? And then he’s a mentor for many women who have become entrepreneurs and are really doing amazing things, including Melanie Whelan of Soul Cycle. Maureen Sullivan, who’s the COO of Rent the Runway. So that whole conversation is looking at the ways that we create allies and alliances and back to your conversation on networking to support others. But you can be your best ally If you know what others are going through and the experiences that they’ve had and the challenges that they face and then how do we internalize that and then support in better ways to help alleviate some of those challenges or roadblocks. So that conversation with Mike on the Ellevate podcast is really interesting because we get into that a little bit more and I think it’s not just a gender thing, it’s not how men support women. It’s how do we all support each other and think about, you know, what other challenges others may be facing that we can be a driver of change and a driver of support. So one other woman who’s interesting, who’s on the Ellevate podcast is this woman Chelsea VonChaz who’s the founder of Happy Period and it came out of this movement that she started when she realized the lack of access to sanitary pads and products for particularly women in underserved communities, lower socioeconomic, the homeless, you know, that also transcends increasingly more so outside of the US. We look at other societies and cultures and access to the supplies that women may need and so she created a whole company to help solve for this problem. To raise awareness and to provide sanitary products to women who need them. So it kind of spans the gamut, right? From, you know, we’re talking block chain, we’re talking big corporations and startups, social activism and then the final one that’s really interesting is Kellie Gerardi who is a NASA astronaut and is really heavily involved in, you know, STEM and aerospace and defense. But a number of great thought leaders who are all contributing in different ways to driving change and within our society.
And so all of these people will be at the Mobilize Women’s Summit on June 21st.
Kristy Wallace: (24:41)
Absolutely. Yes. Everyone, all of these, you know, men and women and beyond, I believe we have about 30 or 40 speakers, tons of different panels, keynotes, fireside chats, you name it. It’s going to be happening June 21st and the event is in New York City. But again, we’re live streaming it so anyone will have access to it via the online lunchroom.
Kristy, you’ve been traveling a lot recently. I know this because you and I have been trying to chat for some time, you know, you visit lots of Ellevate chapters. You speak at lots of conferences. How do you manage this with three kids at home? You were just talking about a man who supports his wife and you know, encourages her career, etcetera, by supporting at home. I mean, I’m guessing you have that too?
Kristy Wallace: (25:30)
I do. You know, I’m very fortunate. My husband and I are a great team. We support each other. It’s not a balance. It’s an integration of us and it’s always changing. I guess the theme of what I keep saying during our conversation is how things continue to evolve and to shift in our lives and just being aware of that. But, yeah, so my husband is an entrepreneur. He owns his own company. I’m a leader, obviously. I’m the CEO of Ellevate Network and so we both have very busy and stressful jobs and so how we’re able to manage that is just mutual respect and understanding, compromise, being able to support each other when we need it most and so sometimes that may mean that you get less sleep or you can’t attend a special meeting cause someone else’s traveling, but, you know, that’s how we make it work. So he is a huge supporter and advocate for me when I travel and, you know, but I also say it’s, it takes a village, right? That’s a term that’s used quite a bit, but, but I mean it. We’re very fortunate we have family that lives close by. We have great neighbors that will pick my kids up from somewhere or will take them to practice or support us in other ways. There’s, when I say coparenting it’s not just my husband and I, it’s many other people that are there along the way to give us that support and that’s a big part of all of this is how do you create those alliances? Those allegiances, that network in all aspects of your life beyond just the professional, but who are the people they are connecting with on a personal level that support you, that connect you to opportunities and the guidance that you need. So yeah, when I travel I, you know, I’m not downplaying it. It’s definitely something I have to think about, but I have to plan for. It takes me away from my family and probably more than anybody adds more to my plate because I tend to do more red eyes and rush places and rush back. But there’s no way I would be able to manage all that if I didn’t have such a great support network, including my partner.
Yeah and I think that’s a really important point is we talk a lot about networking and people’s minds immediately go to your professional network. It’s really important to bear in mind that we’re also talking about your personal networks. You know, that you can, they don’t just support you to grow professionally. They support you personally.
Kristy Wallace: (28:18)
I agree. It is and you need your squad all the time. Right? And if it doesn’t have to also be so siloed, here’s your personal network and here’s your professional network. I think particularly for those of us that are busy, they oftentimes move, combine in different ways. I’m a parent, so for me, I’m very involved in the local school and parent community and I’ve come to find some of my greatest professional contacts through that.
Well, Kristy, thank you. We are almost out of time. I’d like to ask a couple of personal questions if that’s okay.
Kristy Wallace: (28:55)
Is there a woman who stands out for you today, who really inspires you?
Kristy Wallace: (29:00)
Oh, well there are many who inspire me. That’s, it’s funny because I ask that question sometimes of others and then now it’s asked of me. It’s a hard question because there’s actually quite a number of people who inspire me. If it’s, you know, my mom who was, got her doctorate when she had four kids that were all still living at home and became a transition from a medical career into an education teaching career and then was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and so, you know, figured out as we talked earlier about shifting identities that became a new identity for her and something that she became more of an advocate for others. So certainly my mom is always an inspiration. Sallie Krawcheck, who is the chair of Ellevate network is someone I am always inspired by because she is so passionate. She has her personal mission which is to connect women with money and to close the gender investing gap and so she’s so, you know, almost single mindedly focused on that in a way that’s really making meaningful change impact and is a huge proponent for talking about, you know, having these hard conversations around women and money, putting forth solutions and driving action and that’s what I like to do every day in my career and so I’m always very much inspired by the work she does. But any woman who stands up for herself and for other women in the workplace and in the world are women that inspire me. I think it can be so easy and oftentimes the default is to kind of, well, I just need to focus on me and my life and my world and I don’t have time or energy for other things or I don’t know what to do. It’s not my business, but it is your business and so as we increasingly have these conversations like we’re having today around how do you get inspiration from others? How do you learn from others? And then it’s how do you support others in your career? In your life? How do we really become advocates for those that need it? So yeah, any woman who’s speaking out and supporting others is my female role model.
And if you could have coffee with one person from history, who would it be and why?
Kristy Wallace: (31:33)
So, I guess I could pick the author of this. Carolyn Keene is the author. But when I was growing up, I read all the Nancy Drew books and to me it’s such, it actually just is it’s so, it’s so me. If you know me, you know that this is, this is what I’m all about. So my grandfather went to a yard sale and picked up all these old nancy drew books, these hardcover books, and the pages are falling apart and he gave them to me and I love reading. I still love reading today and I’m still the person who stays up late, too late reading and I read like a bunch of crappy crime and thrillers and all those types of stories and it’s such a release for me and I get lost in the story and in my imagination. So the nancy drew was the first exposure to that and I blew through all the books and had the little flashlight, you know, under my covers so I can read them at night and then I would always get really scared cause I wouldn’t want to walk by a window or something silly. But, yeah, I mean I would love to. Carolyn Keene is the author of that or Nancy herself or how I’ve conjured her in my mind. That would be my ideal person to have some coffee with.
That is so funny because I read Nancy Drew growing up as well and I haven’t ever had this conversation with anybody before about Nancy Drew. My, God.
Kristy Wallace: (32:59)
I know, right?
I love those books.
Kristy Wallace: (33:01)
She was a problem solver and a go getter and just making stuff happen. Saving the world. I love her.
Yeah. Yeah. Exactly the kind of person we’re trying to foster today. Brilliant. Well Kristy, thank you so much for your time. This has been really fun and really valuable. All the talk about networking and personal brand and the Mobilize Women’s Summit. Can’t wait for that. So thank you very much for coming on When Women Win.
Kristy Wallace: (33:30)
Of course. Thanks for having me.
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