Skillsoft and Ellevate Network: Advancing Women at Work, Together
About This Episode
In honor of Women’s History Month, we put research and resources into action. Over the past two years we’ve raised awareness of the disproportional impact of COVID-19 on women’s lives, now we bring it back into the limelight as host Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek sits down with Kristy Wallace, the CEO of Ellevate Network. Together they discuss Skillsoft’s work surrounding the Pink Pandemic, Skillsoft and Ellevate’s new partnership, and how we're working together to advance women in the workplace through the 2022 EllevateHER Forward Fellowship program.
The views expressed by guests are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Skillsoft.
Interested in exploring more?
- Uncover all the great work that Ellevate Network is doing for Women+ in the workplace.
- Be a part of advancing women+ and their careers through the 2022 EllevateHER Forward program.
- Learn how Skillsoft’s partnership with Ellevate Network is empowering women+ adversely affected by COVID-19 to advance their careers.
Michelle BB 00:00:07 The views expressed by guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Skillsoft. Welcome to the edge, a Skillsoft podcast for learners and leaders alike. You know, this in every episode, we engage in candid thought provoking conversations on the topic of learning and growth in the workplace. But today this isn't just the edge for the very first time. I'm excited to be hosting a joint podcast with our partners at elevate network, the largest community of women plus at work. And in honor of today's episode, I'd like to first start by acknowledging and celebrating that March marks women's history month. But I personally don't believe that one month a year is enough to acknowledge the tremendous progress made by women who have come before us. Those who have fought for suffrage rallied for better working conditions, fought for proper health care and so many other important initiatives to and by women worldwide.
Michelle BB 00:01:05 And look, yes, we have to acknowledge that we've come far. And while women's history month provides an opportunity to celebrate the social economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It also acts as a reminder that there is still far more work to do and progress to be made according to the world economic forums, 2021 global gender gap report its current trajectory. It will take almost 136 years. Yes. You heard me right to close the gender gap worldwide, which means for many of you listening today, most, if not all of us and who knows what medicine might uncover in a future that could increase life expectancy, but most of us will never see gender parody in our lifetimes. And that's a shame. The message is clear. We are still woefully behind in giving women plus worldwide equal access, equal opportunity, equal pay and equal rights. And this was a reality long before COVID-19 and the pink pandemic, which we know has set women back even further.
Michelle BB 00:02:03 And the social and economic fallout of the pandemic has disproportionately affected women. Plus including all who identify as women across all facets of their lives, personally and professionally and according to McKinsey and company. And as a result, one in four women are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce altogether. Now here at Skillsoft, we've used our platform to help shine a light on this pink pandemic, but we recognize that just talking about it isn't enough action is where the real change happens, which is why we are so excited to be partnering with elevate network to support women plus whose careers and employment have been adversely affected by COVID-19. As we continue to make strides to improve gender balance and equality in the workplace together with me today is Kristy Wallace, the CEO of elevate network together we are co-hosting this special podcast, the edge elevate joint podcast. And in her role as CEO, Christie's responsible for executing elevate network's mission of changing the culture of business from the inside out, by providing professional women with a supportive community to lean on and learn from. She works closely with elevates chapter leaders, business partners, and champions to further elevates impact. She's a regular speaker and thought leader on leadership, diversity, social entrepreneurship, networking, and entrepreneurial-ism most recently Christie was recognized as a woman of influence by the New York business journal. And with that, let's jump into our conversation.
Kristy 00:03:41 Hello, Michelle, it's great to have you here.
Michelle BB 00:03:44 Well, hello and thank you for having me. I'm so excited. You know, it's, it's interesting because I host my own podcast and to be a guest on someone else's is a real treat.
Kristy 00:03:56 So Michelle, could you share a bit about who you are and how you got to where you are today?
Michelle BB 00:04:00 I think most people would be surprised when listening, listening to me to find out that I was born and raised in Dallas, Texas, and you know, grew up there. All of my roots are there. My mother is there and my entire family. And so I get back to Dallas ever so often. And that's when you'll, you'll hear me say y'all a few times. Um, but you know, I was really, really fortunate to grow up with an amazing role model in my mother who also happened to be a pioneer, a female pioneer in technology. She started her career as a programmer for NASA, like back in 1967. I think that dates me a little bit. Um, and she, you know, she went on to serve a number of years in far more senior roles in it and in product management and she had this amazing career Christie, but it was really only act.
Michelle BB 00:04:51 One is this is a woman who went back and then reinvented herself, uh, in her fifties. And she went back to her roots and coding and she's still working today. And why I tell that story is because she serves as such an inspiration to not only me, but to her two granddaughters, my children, Petra who's 18 and Ray who's 14. And we live in New Hampshire with, um, my husband of almost 23 years and our lovable, but goofy Akita mushi. Um, and so that's, that's a little bit, uh, about my personal background and sort of what, what inspires me professionally. I think you'd probably be surprised to hear that my background doesn't really follow a linear progression. I actually, um, found a career in marketing by happenstance. So I started off as an administrative assistant. I was working at a marketing promotion agency and I learned much of the industry by typing up creative briefs.
Michelle BB 00:05:49 That account managers would toss into a basket near my computer. And yes, again, that dates me because I was one of the only people who had a computer there. Um, but I also learned to type, um, and, you know, from there it really was some interesting career progression. I found a product marketing role at a technology company. I furthered my career and my knowledge along the way. Um, I got a master's in communications management from Simmons university, several certifications, but if there's one thing that I would say about my career is that it's always been focused on that intersection between technology and marketing, whether you're talking about networking software, Bluetooth devices, workforce management, cloud AI. Um, but more than that, I've been very fortunate to work in industries and in companies that focus on using technology to improve people's lives and work, right? So whether that's the weather company, um, which I, which I absolutely adored, I was the vice president of B2B marketing there or where I was the chief marketing officer of IBM Watson and, you know, served as the, as the shepherd and the steward of arguably one of the world's best known B2B brands.
Michelle BB 00:07:04 And it was just, it was a wonderful opportunity to be able to lead the marketing for artificial intelligence products and solutions. But I also had perhaps one of my most satisfying moments career-wise um, as part of, uh, IBM's women in AI program, where we celebrated and we acknowledged women who were making a difference at IBM or women who were making a difference in AI. And then from there I joined Skillsoft and, and that's, that's where I am today. We're a company that helps people grow and workforce has transformed through learning.
Kristy 00:07:39 I love your story and really appreciate you mentioning that it's not a straight line because I think it's an important aspect of careers that we want to, to share with our listeners that there's no one perfect way to do things or one straight line. But what I do think is important is finding that purpose. And when you share your story, where does that passion really come from? I mean, you tell your story, but, or maybe it's more about like, how does it manifest itself? I mean, does this get you out of bed in the morning? Are you just so jazzed about what you do?
Michelle BB 00:08:20 Yeah. So this is a wonderful question. And, you know, for me, it's interesting because I just had a conversation with a young woman that I'm mentoring, who am I mentoring? And, um, we were talking about those moments of, um, transition or when you, you know, when you come to that fork in the road, or you've got this pivot point, and you're trying to figure out what to do and where to go from a prep professional perspective. And, you know, I shared with her the three questions that I ask myself when I'm at that fork in the road or that moment when I, you know, when I'm considering or a transition. And the first question is, do I love the organization that I'm working for? Do I believe very strongly in what this company does right? Is, is what is the work that you're doing meaningful?
Michelle BB 00:09:08 And the answer always has to be, yes, that's a, non-negotiable the second question I ask myself is, do I like the people with whom I work? Are they good people? Are they good humans at the core? And are they aligned to the purpose and mission of the company? And that too is a non-negotiable right. So that has to be yes. And then the third question I ask myself is, do I like the role I'm in and that's course where I think there's a little bit more wiggle room. Cause we don't always love what we do every single day. Right? The job is sometimes there are things that we have to do that we don't love doing. But if the first two answers to those questions are yes. Right. Do I love the company and what they do and do what they stand for? And do I like the people I work with that third part will come and can come.
Michelle BB 00:09:56 And it gives us the opportunity to say, you know, I might not like what I'm doing at this moment, but I leave it. I believe very strongly in what we do and therefore, and the people I work with. And therefore I'm going to try and figure out how to make this role more mine. I'm going to figure out how to make this, you know, um, take this job and, and do more with it. And perhaps, you know, maybe move within the organization or, um, find something that I'm really passionate about and stretch myself in this particular role. And I think that's, you know, I don't know, it's just part of who I am or part of my DNA, but I will say that there are sort of three key themes that have that I've learned about myself throughout my career. Number one, I've, I've always been fascinated by the impact that technology has had.
Michelle BB 00:10:48 I mean, without a doubt on our daily lives and at work. And I think part of that's working in the tech industry, um, and I think that there's so much value in learning and embracing new technology because it's going to benefit not only you, but the organizations for which you work. So that's number one, right? This impact of technology. The second thing is, and I think this is where a little bit of passion comes through. I have been in, and I'm always a lifelong learner and I have always put a focus on learning, not just because I work at Skillsoft, but because it has been an enabler for me, it has been the way that I have been able to grow my career. Um, and it has allowed me to, um, make moves that I didn't thought I didn't think were possible. And, you know, look, sometimes it's hard right when we learn new things.
Michelle BB 00:11:38 Um, and sometimes we have setbacks, but I will tell you, even in those moments where I'm challenged and I find myself struggling with something, eventually when I emerged on the other side, I've learned something and I've grown and I try and embrace that. Um, and then the third thing, the third key theme is really around corporate social responsibility, um, and something that I've learned. And I would say it's just so important is that you don't have to sacrifice a paycheck to do good in this world. You really don't. Um, you can have a job that is meaningful and valuable and doing great things for people and still earn that paycheck. Um, and I'm really, really passionate about the work that we, that I get to do at Skillsoft. We unlock doors to possibilities through learning and much of what I've been focused on. And, and obviously one of the reasons we're having this conversation today is that in this current role and, and in what I do, I get to help women plus including all who identify as women whose lives have been disproportionately affected by COVID, who have been marginalized in some way who have always struggled with equity in the workplace.
Michelle BB 00:12:52 And so, you know, I, I try and find meaning and purpose Christian, everything that I do.
Kristy 00:12:58 Thank you so much for that. And I, and I can feel that meaning and purpose that you found here. And it definitely sounds like you've landed in the perfect spot with Skillsoft. I've been incredibly impressed, not just with the technology and the impact of the technology, um, you know, education and furthering of knowledge and skills, but also the organization's commitment to women and women in the workplace. And particularly during this time, I know that Skillsoft has done a lot around the pink pandemic and, you know, helping to advance women in the workplace. Can you share a bit more about what the pink pandemic is, uh, and what type of work you're doing to, to reverse that?
Michelle BB 00:13:47 Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, you'll have to stop me if I go on, because this is, this is in fact, a passion project for me. And I'm really, really fortunate that I'm able to work on this here at Skillsoft. But, um, you know, what we found is, and I said this earlier, is that, um, women, including all who identify as women, uh, were disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, um, largely because the industries that were predominantly affected were those in which there were more women, um, women left, uh, the workplace because they needed to serve as caregivers, whether it was to children who were remote schooling or to, um, provide elder care, but we saw more women exit the workplace than men. And we were also, um, unfortunately at a place in which we didn't have, uh, you know, we had far fewer women, um, in the workplace and we didn't, I think like the late 1980s, which is crazy.
Michelle BB 00:14:55 So we felt that it was important to raise this issue of, you know, what's being known as the pink pandemic. And I taught a five-part course in co-authored a paper on how we recover from it and what women, um, and allies can do to lift themselves up regained power and influence and return to the workforce, um, in a way that, um, that is right for them in their circumstances. But what we found interesting, and we, by the way, we did this last year, um, but what we found is that as we've gone on in the pandemic, we've learned so much more and we've recognized that one woman's COVID isn't another's right. So just as different populations and individuals have had, you know, really unique or different experiences with the virus. So have women, women who have been on the front lines physically, emotionally and mentally, and, and whether they've left the workforce, or they've struggled with COVID fatigue or they've reinvented themselves, or are trying to reinvent themselves for new opportunities, we know that their lives have changed both professionally and personally.
Michelle BB 00:16:09 And so we're in the midst of a new report, which is really focused on the many shades of the pink pandemic. And it's going to share stories of women. Plus who've been dealing with the effects of COVID in very different ways. And we share these stories of, of a pediatrician who went from clinical work to telemedicine. Um, and she's focusing mainly on advising worried moms. Um, we talked to a COO who left a really high powered job because her son was struggling. Um, a professor whose Fulbright fellowship was cut short, a retailer who had to start a, uh, a digital business and reinvent what her business was because her storefront was shuttered, a grade school teacher who felt endangered and unappreciated. And so this whole pandemic has been, you know, I think so many levels horrific, but particularly for women and those who identify as women, we've found that it is important to shed a light on not only the challenges that they face, but more importantly, the ways in which, again, they can regain power and influence and lift themselves up and how to find those advocates and allies within organizations and in their communities, um, to raise awareness and to take action and frankly, um, to make connections and, and develop new competencies.
Michelle BB 00:17:39 And so it's, it's, you know, it's certainly an individual imperative, right? We have, we have an imperative, I think, individually to help ourselves, but we have a responsibility both as individuals and organizations to empower women, to enable them and to help them again, regain that power.
Kristy 00:17:58 Yes, I, yes. Yes. And he has.
Michelle BB 00:18:01 Yeah. Well, and you know, I, I, I, I guess a question that I would ask you, Christie, because I, I am equally as impressed by the work that you've been doing, but you've been doing this work since, before the pandemic. How has the work that you've been doing with elevate changed as a result of COVID and like, what are you seeing out there and what are you hearing from, from your members? Like where's the greatest need right now as a result?
Kristy 00:18:32 Oh yeah. So I would say, um, it's changed a lot actually. I mean, tactically, we were doing, you know, a thousand in-person events a year, right? So pivoting into a virtual space, which was very crowded and undefined. Um, and I'm really proud of the elevate team and all that we've done to, to really create connection and meaning and depth of connection. And we all conversation in, in over zoom, right. And, and who knew that was possible. Um, but it is. And so what we are continuing to do is bringing together women in our community on a local level, we know local connections matter. Um, Google assumed me back in person, but building that local community of change-makers of partnerships, of opportunities of ideas, we then convene our community, uh, virtually around career stage. I lead our executive program. And so that is, um, you know, how we help executives really continue to succeed and lead and drive change.
Kristy 00:19:41 Um, but we do that for business owners, for rising leaders. We make space for those in our community that are traditionally underrepresented or discriminated against. So we have our holding space forum for black women in our community, LGBTQ AI seasoned professionals who are combating ageism. Um, and then beyond that, we continue to run our squads program, which is a 12 week long peer mentoring program that goes deeper. It's really about, you know, that that's of support that you need to overcome challenges or achieve your goals. But to answer your bigger question about how has the conversation changed, it's changed quite a bit. I would say pre pandemic, we were still kind of, okay, like, what is the, you know, society or professionally defined goals of women in the workplace? And yes, I want to get on that board or have, you know, thought leadership and executive presence and all of these things.
Kristy 00:20:45 Yes. They matter. But that is, you know, the way it's always been the determinants of success. Um, we were coming off of, you know, I think a big swell of, of women coming together, fighting for equality in the workplace and, and equal pay and all of that it's been going on for, for some time. But we had really become more energized in the past couple of years and then, uh, COVID hit and it was like, boom. Right. And all its value you're seeing is we're moving backwards. And over a million women left the workforce. We're seeing industries dominated by women that are, you know, decimated. And it was a really hard thing, particularly for, for me and for, you know, women in the workplace to feel that any progress, which had been hard fought and slowly one was going backwards. And so then the conversations in our community became more about, okay, what do we need to sustain it as exactly what you're sharing, what you went through, what I went through, how do we just support each other to get through the day to feel less alone, to feel connected, to feel inspired.
Kristy 00:22:00 And we talked a lot about, you know, finding your purpose, which you've shared about too, and, you know, setting boundaries and, you know, managing, uh, leadership and presence in a virtual space, um, managing teams with, uh, during a time of uncertainty and business pivots. But what I'm seeing now, as we are coming out of this period is, I mean, I am blown away. I'm seeing, I mean, I'm not surprised, but I'm inspired because what I'm seeing is women across the spectrum of business, say, alright, now it's time to make change. Now it's time to take control. Now it's time to leave this business into the future to be a better business for our customers, to be a better business for the world to go after my dreams, to continue to, to move into the trajectory that I want to move into. And this is a momentum and a convening and, uh, adjust, you know, power that is inspiring, energizing and exciting. And so the conversation's changing. We've seen so much in our society, um, from, you know, business structural norms to societal norms, uh, that are wrong and unjust and need to be changed. And I believe women are those that are going to change it and, and our allies as well.
Michelle BB 00:23:34 I love that. I, I, you know, and that's, so it is so inspiring to know. And I think part of it is this sort of, you talked about re-emergence whether you want to call it reinvention. Re-emergence, you know, I don't love the term great resignation, um, largely because I think what people are doing is reexamining, um, the opportunities that they have in front of them. And I think they are able to now look and say, what's important to me where I am at now and what do I want to be doing in my life, both personally and professionally. And I think that, you know, we have an, an opportunity and a responsibility to help each other build new pathways to a more equitable future one, in which we can, again, not only do good, but also earn a paycheck. And I think that, you know, for me, one of the things that excites me is that I'm in a role in which we can provide tools for women who want to grow their skills and are looking for opportunities in those high demand, um, careers.
Michelle BB 00:24:52 Um, we're, we, we, we have a skills gap, um, where we can help, I think by investing in, um, not just resources, but investing in the careers of women who are already in the workplace and creating forums and, um, groups, connections for people in our workplace. We we've started a, uh, a series of employee advocacy groups within Skillsoft. And I will tell you, they have been remarkable in terms of helping to create those connections in a world where I think social distancing has caused emotional distancing, and we are not as connected to the organizations that we've worked for. And so it's really, I think, important both as, as leaders, but also as organizations to create these opportunities for everyone, women certainly, but everyone, um, to be able to pursue their, their passion and also, um, I think find a, uh, a really strong career path.
Kristy 00:26:17 Yep. Yeah. I mean, it, the conversation has to move and I, and I believe particularly for women, it has been moving for a long time away from the, you know, what's, what's my trajectory or what, what's my plan to, what's our plan, you know, how do we collectively, uh, look out for each other and create that type of support and opportunity, and, you know, kudos to you, Michelle, it's, it's going to be, change-makers like you and me that advocate for this within our organizations and, you know, bringing it back to what you said earlier, it's a lot easier to do it when you are within a company that shares your values and people who really, you know, share your passion and believe in this as much as you do. But yes, like if we have the privilege to be able to do something, to, to help others, to lift them up, to create change, to advocate for them, then let's do it.
Kristy 00:27:16 And that's something central to the ways that we've come together at Skillsoft and elevate, elevate her program. Um, we've seen over a million women, uh, losing their jobs or economic opportunity there, you know, dreams and future and impact, uh, during this time. And we want to change that and we are going to change nothing. We want to we're changing that. Um, because we know that by offering a community like elevates, that has the support, the advice, the actionable ideas, the connection to opportunities, you know, research shows, there's a Harvard business review, a research that showed that women need to networks to succeed, uh, to get to the upper levels of a business. You need one, the, the breadth of a network, you know, large network that is diversity of thought. It's connection to opportunity, it's connection to ideas and inspiration and a depth of network.
Kristy 00:28:22 There's deep connections that become your personal board of advisors. The people that have your back, give you the real advice, role-play that job interview or the negotiation conversation. And it's the comp culmination of that breadth and depth they're going to help you not just achieve what you're going after, but continue to rise towards your goal. And conversely, we're seeing the world change rapidly. The industries that are emerging, the skills that are needed, the opportunities that are there and bringing together our network and support and advice, and just the, the sheer wealth of information and skills and knowledge and support from Skillsoft is what's going to create the systemic change to help women to succeed now and into the future.
Michelle BB 00:29:13 I love that. I guess one question I would have for you Christie, is, you know, I, I think, you know, that's, that's, that's amazing advice I think for women, but what would you say, or what advice would you give to organizations that are looking to support women, whether it's to overcome the pink pandemic or to just help them grow, you know, gain internal mobility, if you will.
Kristy 00:29:42 Yeah. I mean, there's a few things that are going to be important for organizations. Um, they talk about silos earlier about us as individual and the size of those we create with our identity, but some of those exist within companies as well. It's an easy way to create policy or, um, address, you know, change or opportunity within populations of your workforce. But first companies need to kind of break down those silos. It's not just how we support women, but how do we support black women? How do we support LGBTQ AI? How are we supporting our aging workforce? How are we supporting transgender workforce or those with, uh, different abilities or disabilities? I mean, you have to really meet your workforce where they are. Uh, what are the experiences they're having? The challenges are having, what are the ways you can best help them feel, not just included, but that they succeed.
Kristy 00:30:45 I think that is the first step to also connecting with their values, you know, eating an employer, who's connecting on that level beyond just a job. That's, what's going to keep those employees in the workforce, keep them in your organization because they feel seen, they feel heard and then companies need to continue to evolve their thinking around how they are best supporting not just the workforce, but their customers and their local communities, um, beyond, you know, a performative, this is international women's month. So we're gonna have some events and then forget about it until next year. Like, how do we make this as 365 day effort and value within our organization? And I think a lot of it is around the skill building and the opportunity. Uh, I, similar to a story you told, I had worked at a company. I was actually at one organization for nine years.
Kristy 00:31:46 Um, and the reason I stayed there most, because every time I kind of hit a point where I was like, alright, I'm on that. The, um, at the time to leave, I've done everything I can, can no longer excited about this. They helped me to learn a new skill, to move into a new role, to find that excitement and purpose. And that's what we need to be doing within our workforces, you know, understanding what's their goal, what are they excited about? Um, and how do we give them that type of learning skills and opportunity to continue pursuing it? So that's a bit about we architecting some of those linear structures that exist, um, being more innovative, being more creative, really connecting with that human and seeing how those myriad of connections then translate into business strategy, business, success, business progress. And I believe it's all connected. It's just looking at the problem from maybe the ground up versus from the balance sheet down.
Michelle BB 00:32:55 Yeah. And it seems like there's a lot of responsibility or an obligation, I would say, as leaders to address the concerns of our people and not just with, you know, sort of the work-related responsibilities. But I think now probably as a result of the pandemic, I think we have to be more thoughtful. I think we have to give people a chance to express how they're feeling, not just what they're doing. And I know that I recognize that that means that perhaps the lines between personal and professional are blurred, but I would argue that during the pandemic we saw that, you know, um, as we played out during the months of remote work and endless web meetings and dogs and kids and doorbells, um, I think we started to blur those lines, but I would say that the, the best leaders are those who engage with their teams on both levels professionally and personally connecting to the whole person and not just the job that that individual does. And I think there's a tremendous responsibility for leaders to step up and step in, um, and help their teams, especially now, right. Especially as we begin to emerge. And we start to think about what does work look like and where does work get done? And, you know, as I'm rethinking my place in not only this particular organization, but the world itself, how are you as a leader going to help me? And I think it's really, really important.
Kristy 00:34:35 It's important. And it's, it's an opportunity. I mean, you can see it so much as, you know, how do I be the leader I wish I always had, um, how do I think about leadership in a different way, but also, you know, now is the time to, to create, you know, as leaders, many of us want to create, we want to have a legacy, we want to own something. We're excited about innovation and you know, where is this going? And what can we do to, to really get us to that end goal? And, you know, even thinking about the return to office, that is an opportunity, uh, to not just go back to the way the things were, but to move into a new way of working, what is flex work? What are the ways that people communicate in the office? And most importantly, if you are an organization that's looking at a flex work environment, how do we ensure that in-person FaceTime, isn't prioritized over at home, meaning, you know, you could easily have a team meeting, great.
Kristy 00:35:49 Some people are on zoom. Some people are in the conference room meetings over the person on zoom, goes back to their work, making their lunch, whatever they're doing, and you're chit and getting to know the person in the office better, and you're connecting and maybe it's like, oh, let's go out for drinks later. Or, you know, let's go take a walk and you're building that rapport and connection. And so we will start to see a balance shift, uh, that could really snowball away from us. And that's just one example. And so I, I encourage leaders and organizations to approach this with, uh, uh, a mindset towards how do we best help everyone succeed? Uh, how do we best meet our workforce, where they are as humans, um, and to think about them as our greatest asset, our greatest customer engager and innovation driver and values delivery person, uh, because this is the future of business.
Michelle BB 00:36:56 I love that I really do. And I agree, you know, um, we, I, I think this is a time when we have to be far more mindful about how we lead. Um, and I will, I will go back to something I think I touched on at the beginning, which, you know, is sort of my, my, I guess my, I don't know if it's ethos or my thoughts on leadership, the way that I view leadership, but it really is something, you know, cold leading right side up. And I think what's so important about that. And right now, what, what we need to do in, in, you know, your, your point about making sure that we connect, not just with the person who's sitting next to us in the room, but also with those people who are remote, not necessarily coming into a workplace, um, we have to lead with emotional intelligence.
Michelle BB 00:37:56 We have to lead with empathy and we have to be better and more effective listeners. Um, and I think when you've got a really good company culture that values the people and not necessarily the place from which they work or the method in which they work, that prioritizes the people and their need for flexibility and their need to take care of their families and perhaps be off video for a few minutes when we, when we really have that kind of, and we focus in our employee needs, and we answer them with encouragement and support, we're going to be successful. I think it's this company, cultures that to your point, start to prioritize those in-person relationships. And aren't thinking about how do we move forward in a world that is Fastly different than the one we left two years ago? Um, it's gonna, that's, that's where you're going to have. That's going to be more problematic.
Kristy 00:39:05 Yeah. And Michelle, I mean, let's both be honest, right? I mean, I run a business, you have a PNL and you work for a company, you know, in a company that needs to, you know, I don't know if you have, investors are trying to, you have to report to your leadership where you're reporting to. We've got, you know, a lot on our shoulders in terms of keeping the doors open the lights on, especially coming through this time. So it is going to be a, an opportunity, a challenge, I think an exciting redefinition of a leadership on how do we continue to build successful businesses that are growing, that are, you know, innovating that are serving our customers and serving our employees and creating that culture and that impact we want to have. It's, it's really that alignment of business and values, which for a long time are not quite aligned.
Kristy 00:40:10 They're seen as, okay. You know, it's about the business and the, the growth and the numbers and the stakeholders. And then yes, we want to be a great place, but this is that future of leadership and future businesses where you can see the two intersect around, you know, success and growth and strategy and innovation and values and people and humanness. And that to me is just so exciting. And it's so exciting too, because I see it every day within the elevate community, these leaders and managers and business owners coming together, having these conversations, sharing best practices, sharing innovation, I see it in the work that Skillsoft does, where we are helping to support and lift up the future of leadership that are going to take our businesses into the next phase of more conscious leadership with impact human centered, but changing the world and continuing to really drive, you know, success and innovation in a way that we've, we've been hungry for.
Michelle BB 00:41:23 You know, um, it reminds me, I just, I watched, uh, an amazing keynote, um, Christie, I think a couple of weeks ago, but what, what I took away and what really struck me was that when an organization is willing to invest in its people, there's a big impact on productivity, morale, retention, and bottom line, right? So when you do right by your people, you're going to do right by the business. What was really interested interesting is that having an employee centered culture where you focus on the people, there is so much value in that. So employees are something like nearly five times more likely to stay with a company that offers learning, right. They're almost six times more likely to stay. If they have clarity of vision, if they understand where that company is going and what that company stands for. And they are nearly 10 times more likely to stay with, with what we call, um, or what the speaker called, uh, the rocket fuel game changer, a culture that aligns to a purpose and then engages its employees and pursuing it. And so I think that that your point is an, is an important one. Yes, we all have goals and, um, objectives for the organizations that we work for. Um, and perhaps we have our own personal goals and objectives as well. But, you know, when we focus on as leaders, when we focus on our people and when we, when we prioritize this employee centered culture, it benefits not only the people who work for the organization, but there's, there's massive benefits to the organization itself.
Kristy 00:43:12 Yep. Yes. And that's where this opportunity exists because we've talked about things around business imperative for, you know, having a diverse workforce for a long time. Uh, for example, and I think the data matters, the data supports the argument, but it's the stories and it's the personal exposure and experience that will drive the change that will internalize it, that will make it, uh, woven throughout the organization. And that's a lot of what you're doing with your next research report, which I
Kristy 00:43:55 Read the data, but it's the stories, right? And, and that's where we know our own. I know what Christie went through, you know, what Michelle went through, we know what are some of our friends and family and community and teammates went through it. As we really come to understand, you know, the full scope of the pink pandemic and the full impact, um, particularly on the totality of women plus, and then what we need to do, uh, to harness the power of this community, to create change, to support them, and to make that part of our business imperative and mission as employers and as leaders, then that's the future we seek. And that's an exciting thing to envision.
Michelle BB 00:44:42 Um, I do have one final question for you, and I know that, um, our listeners would love, love, love to hear you answer this. And it's a three parter. Um, so you may need to get out a pen. Um, but it's something that I've asked every single guest that I've had since I started the edge and I started this by the way, during the pandemic. And I think this was one of the ways in which, um, I dealt with what was a really, you know, a lot of uncertainty. And so it's been interesting to look back at some of the responses over the past two years, but look, we've all had different experiences. We talked about that already when it comes to the pandemic. So three questions, number one. What have you learned about yourself throughout the pandemic? Second, how are you applying what you've learned? And then the third part is based on what you've learned and what you've applied, what advice would you give to people now?
Kristy 00:45:53 Can I answer this personally and professionally?
Michelle BB 00:45:56 Absolutely. Any way you want.
Kristy 00:45:59 So, uh, personally I've learned during the pandemic, uh, which has been happening long before that, that I don't ever put myself first.
Kristy 00:46:10 And, um, it was a hard lesson to learn because especially during the past two years, that what that ended up with is an empty cut. You know, I wasn't ever putting myself first, are we filling my cup, giving myself what I needed, then it's, it's pretty hard to run on empty. And, um, and that can be a really low and tough place to be in. So what I've, what I've learned, um, how I've applied that is, is just to really have some grace with myself and give myself time. Right. And, and I went into this initially with like, okay, I, now I know I need to get myself, you know, I need to invest in myself and put myself first. And here's a hundred things I want to do when I'm going to set these big goals. And that's not realistic that actually added more stress and took more away from me.
Kristy 00:47:03 So what I've done is just listening to myself and, and giving myself what I need, if needed, sit on the couch and read a book for 10 minutes to kind of just decompress and be in a different head space that I'm going to do it. If I want to go take a walk, I'm going to do it. Um, if I feel lonely and I need to talk to someone, I'm going to pick up the phone and call a friend and just listen to my body, listen to myself and try to take some, some step action time everyday for me. And I read an article heading into the new year, um, which I really needed to read at that time, because heading into the new year, when I had all these big goals and visions, my entire family came down with COVID and we were quarantined for 21 days from the start of the first case to the end of the last one.
Kristy 00:47:52 And it was a pretty hard place to be in. So the article said that if you want to, you know, say, start running, it's not about, okay, go out there and run a mile. It's go out there and take a step. And the next step, maybe take two steps. And the next day it takes three steps and it can just be a minute I spent today making progress towards that end goal. And that felt so real to me. So manageable. So, um, yeah. Okay. Christie, you can take a step. You can do that. You can take a minute. And so approaching it as those, all of those collective minutes throughout the day of, of taking that time that you need, um, it all adds up and it matters and it's worth it. And so my advice to others is to, um, yeah, take that. So one minute, that one step, uh, doesn't have to be, I'm going to go run a marathon.
Kristy 00:48:49 It's, I'm going to give myself a little space to refill my cup, to get what I need to put myself first. Um, I do recognize that that is a privilege that many of us don't have for a variety of reasons, but I hope that there's a little space in your day that you can take to just be present with yourself and to just support yourself, because we need you, we need you to continue having that strength and that energy and that presence to keep moving forward. And we're here to support you in that as well. Uh, the second advice from a professional level, something I learned about myself, I mean, I always knew I was introverted, uh, and definitely as an executive, I'm very outward facing. So being in the office, I was constantly in interacting with the team, but it was oftentimes I'm coming out of an external meeting or I'm coming off of an external call and I see someone and we chat and then I'd go onto the next meeting or call.
Kristy 00:49:53 And, um, it's really easy to hide over zoom. You know, it's really easy to, to not be present. Um, and especially if the ways you were present before were in person and not always communicating via email or a slack or messaging or video. And, and especially for someone like me, who tends to be more introverted and also external facing. So all of that culminated in me not being as present with my team, with my organization, not connecting with them on that one-on-one level. And that matters because as you mentioned during this time of uncertainty, our employees are feeling that too, they're feeling uncertain. The world is unknown. You know, they don't know what's going on and they're looking for leadership to help reassure them, to listen to them, to even just say, I don't have the answers, but I'm listening to you and what I'm going through too.
Kristy 00:50:52 I hear you. I feel you. Um, and, and so for me, what I have been doing is just, you know, yeah. Making more space and time to, it may just be attending meetings where I typically am not, but there's like more of the team they're reaching out to people one-on-one, it doesn't even have to be a video call or a big time suck. Um, and I want to rephrase that. It's not a time sack when we're talking about our teams, but it is just maybe sending a quick message. Like I, you know, had a conversation with someone the other day and noticed they were kind of really overwhelmed by some of the things that are happening in this world. And I sent them a message and said, Hey, I'm here. If you ever want to talk, like, I, I feel you. And I see you and I'm here to support you.
Kristy 00:51:40 And so I would just say as leaders and advice to all of us, as managers, as colleagues and coworkers, to think about all the opportunity for communication, uh, and to be present with those, we work alongside of, to be there for them to build that rapport and connection, because that is a central piece of a workforce. Um, as those people, you work alongside them and you collaborate with that, you manage your lead and just be intentional about ways you continue to build those connections, even in this virtual space. And especially as we may be moving back into the physical space as well,
Michelle BB 00:52:24 Christie, this has been absolutely incredible. Thank you so much for speaking with me today. And again, we could not be more thrilled to partner with elevate network and sponsor the 2020 to elevate her Ford fellowship program and to our listeners. I want to thank you for tuning into this and every episode as we unleash our edge together. And if you're interested in making a contribution to the 2020 to elevate her forward program or applying to receive a fellowship, you can head over to elevate her full word.com on behalf of the entire Skillsoft team. I encourage you to keep learning, keep growing and in light of our conversation today, I want to challenge you with this first, take a moment this month to celebrate the women in your life. Those who have taught, coached, inspired, or made a difference to you, especially those who might not realize the impact they've had second, consider how you can play a role in remedying, this pink pandemic and working towards equal opportunity, equal pay and equal rights for women plus around the globe. I'm Michelle BB. This is the edge. And until next time be well.
About Our Guest
Kristy Wallace is the CEO of Ellevate Network, and is responsible for executing Ellevate Network’s mission of changing the culture of business from the inside out by providing professional women with a supportive community to lean on and learn from. She directs the Network’s staff, is responsible for business growth and strategy, and works closely with Ellevate's Chapter Leaders, Business Partners, and Champions to further Ellevate's impact.
Prior to joining Ellevate, Kristy was a founding team member of Zeel.com, where she oversaw operations, business modeling, brand development, partnerships, and fundraising. Prior to Zeel, Kristy served as VP of North America Ad Sales and then GM of International Operations at Vault.com.
Kristy obtained her BA in English/Sociology from Villanova University and began her career as a financial analyst at KeyBank. A passionate runner, reader and world traveler, Kristy lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn with her husband and three wonderful children.
About Our Host
As Chief Marketing Officer, Michelle leads a global marketing organization, focused on transforming today’s workforce for tomorrow’s economy. Since joining the company, she has been responsible for Skillsoft’s global marketing strategy, which includes generating awareness, driving preference, and building affinity for Skillsoft. Additionally – and perhaps most importantly – Michelle serves as the company's brand evangelist, helping to build a vibrant community of passionate learners.
With more than 25 years of marketing, branding, and strategy experience, Michelle has made it her personal mission to support the advancement of women in business. Prior to Skillsoft, she served as Chief Marketing Officer of IBM Watson, where she was instrumental in developing the first “Women Leaders in AI” program, which honors women who put AI to work across industries and around the globe. She also served as the global head of marketing for The Weather Company, an IBM Business, helping companies understand how to anticipate, plan for, and ultimately make better decisions – with greater confidence – in the face of weather.
Michelle is a prolific speaker on a range of topics, including the war for talent, digital transformation, and marketing in a post-pandemic world. She covers these topics and more as the host of Skillsoft's podcast, The Edge, now in its second season. She has authored countless papers covering a range of business and marketing topics, was at the center of Skillsoft’s leadership role in DEI through free “Leadercamps,” and has taught two Percipio courses on the Pink Pandemic and Public Speaking.
Michelle is also a founding member of CMO Huddles, a group dedicated to bringing together and empowering highly effective B2B CMOs to share, care, and dare each other to greatness. Michelle holds a Master’s degree from Simmons University and sits on the pro side of the Oxford comma debate.