Breaking the Expected Career Path | That’s A Good Question

37 Minutes
Woman hiking

Women are often pigeon-holed into managerial positions because they have “stronger soft skills.”

So what does career growth look like for someone who has zero interest in managing a team and works within an organization where there is no precedent for growth outside management?

In this episode of That’s a Good Question we help our listener talk through this very situation and identify her next steps. We will explore tips for creating a career path that enables growth and aligns with your unique goals and strengths; how to advocate for yourself; and ways to break the barriers that many women and people of color face within the confines of male-dominated fields.

Through active problem solving, practical advice and shared experiences, you will leave inspired, confident and armed with tools to enable growth on your own terms.


 

Our Host: Celeste Headlee

Celeste Headlee Celeste Headlee is a communication and human nature expert, and an award-winning journalist. She is a professional speaker, and also the author of Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving, Heard Mentality and We Need to Talk. In her twenty-year career in public radio, she has been the executive producer of On Second Thought at Georgia Public Radio, and anchored programs including Tell Me More, Talk of the Nation, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. She also served as cohost of the national morning news show The Takeaway from PRI and WNYC, and anchored presidential coverage in 2012 for PBS World Channel. Headlee’s TEDx talk sharing ten ways to have a better conversation has over twenty million total views to date. @CelesteHeadlee

Our Guest Expert: Loretta Fellers

Loretta Fellers Loretta Fellers is a global executive with extensive experience across sales, business and finance operations. She currently leads the Dell Technologies Customer Success organization within the Customer and Finance Support organization which supports $18B in annual revenue and delivers ‘white glove’ integrated program management support across the Order to Cash cycle for our most complex and strategic customers. In addition to her current responsibilities leading the Customer Success team, Loretta plays an instrumental role in supporting Dell Technologies’ Employee Resource Groups (ERG’s). Loretta currently holds leadership roles within Dell Technologies chairing the Central Texas Chapter of Dell’s WIA (Women In Action) and Latino Connection Membership board ERG roles. She has a strong passion for diversity, collaboration and strong execution, and thrives on leading teams that enables success for Dell Technologies and the customers we serve. She is also a board member of the Texas Conference for Women. Loretta is married to her husband Jim, has two sons, Andrew and Alexander, and resides in Austin, Texas. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management and a MBA from the University of Texas at Dallas.


Additional Resources:

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Episode Transcript:

Celeste Headlee:
Okay. So [Listener], you are in a job currently that you like, is that accurate?

Women Amplified Listener:
That’s correct.

Celeste Headlee:
But you want to become not a manager, but a partner. Why?

Women Amplified Listener:
Well, it’s more principles. So in larger architecture firms, you aim for principalship. I believe that through principalship, especially with my role as a project architect, I can demonstrate not just to myself, but to other women and men that women of color can actually lead as design principals. Specifically to my company, when you are a principal, you can achieve that through either going the project management or the design director route. However, as a project architect, you usually don’t move up to principalship unless you change going into project management or design.

Women Amplified Listener:
And I think it’s important for that representation so that other women and specifically women of color know that as a technical project architect or just project architect broadly speaking, that that is something that’s available. Because as of right now, especially for Black women, our numbers are at 0.4% of the registered architect population. And you just don’t hear about us or see us. There was an article a few years ago, like where are the women, like broadly women, architects? We’ve always been here. It’s just, I think there’s a lot of not specifically identifying what we actually do. And maybe that’s a lack of clarity through the industry, but we are here. Right? And we are doing the work. But I think that in terms of moving up into leadership, either it’s not talked about, or we just are not seeing it.

Celeste Headlee:
How many of the principals at your firm are women of color?

Women Amplified Listener:
I think right now, to my understanding, we have three, but they are not necessarily project architects. Right? One is a managing director, another is a principal, she’s more management, and I forget what the last one does. But, as of now there are three and they’re specifically Black women, but I don’t have the demographic number women of color because I haven’t seen it broken out that way.

Celeste Headlee:
Now you informed when you began with this firm, you told your supervisor and your sponsor that you did not want to become a manager of a team. Why was that?

Women Amplified Listener:
So I have previously, at another firm, I have done project management before. When I started at that company, I went in as a PA and within a few months I was moved up to project management, but I was also maintaining the PA role. I learned a lot. I think it’s a valuable asset to have, but I don’t think everyone needs to track on that route in order to “lead”. I think that you can lead as a project architect.

Women Amplified Listener:
I don’t see why you have to follow one specific route to leadership. And actually in any firm that I’ve worked at, I’ve noticed that leadership is always considered a management, but I don’t know why as a project architect who works with the designers on the design and is in the field and getting the project built, can’t lead because to me that’s clearly leadership, right? You need that role, so I just don’t have a love for it. I think that sometimes we get into roles that we’re told by society, like this is the way to move up and I don’t want to. It’s really that simple.

Celeste Headlee:
So when you speak with your supervisor or your sponsor about this, what do they say?

Women Amplified Listener:
So the sponsor that I had prior to transferring to the office that I’m in now, he was completely on board with it. And he told me that it might be challenging because it hasn’t been done this way. And I understand that, right, the structure of a company is the structure of a company. But it’s not impossible just because something hasn’t been done doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. It just means it hasn’t been done. And I had to outline like how I saw myself in a leadership role as a PA and how I wanted to move up and I did that.

Women Amplified Listener:
And I think the next part of it is, okay, how does the company support that? Right? Like where do I go from the fact that I know I don’t want to go into management and how can they support that? That’s really the discussion right now. And I’m not sure on my end how much more I can outline based off of the outline that I already completed, because I feel like at some point, you’re just doing the work for the sake of doing it and nothing is actually getting resolved.

Celeste Headlee:
Loretta, do you feel like you have a good sense of what her issue is?

Loretta Fellers:
I think so. I think I can actually relate to it and can appreciate the challenge that you’re running into, Damali.

Celeste Headlee:
You know, it’s so often that these norms of promotion get established and because they’re the way it’s always been done, that becomes self-fulfilling, right? Then it becomes the way that it is done. How does one go about breaking through norms like that?

Loretta Fellers:
My recommendation and listening to you [Listener], is a couple of things. I heard a couple of problem statements in what you were describing. The first one is really around breaking a norm within your company I’m going to call it, in terms of the expected career path of an architect, a principal architect in your ability to get to that principal role. That would be number one. The second priority that I’m hearing from you, or problem statement, is the lack of representation for women of color in the role of principal. So the two are not mutually exclusive, but yet the two can be approached in different ways, I think, but yet have overlap that could yield benefit to both of your challenges. So, as an example, when I hear you speak about this norm that you’re going against, there’s a couple of thoughts that come to mind.

Loretta Fellers:
I don’t know if the norm is specific to your company or if it’s maybe a specific problem that is also a problem in the industry. I would suggest maybe looking at the industry and I’ve seen this done before, by the way, where someone wants to go change the game and they go and look at industry compares around what is normal and they bring that outside in thinking. I don’t think I would be the first one to say, it’s easy to get stuck in our silo around the company that we’re in. And we believe that that becomes the norm for everything when that’s certainly not the case. Right?

Loretta Fellers:
So gathering some external industry information around what is commonly practiced in the industry, may be an opportunity to provide a foundation for a different conversation with your leadership team. The second thing I would say is that my experience of over 25 years in the industry and with a project management background, I actually think that leading through others without the formal title is way more difficult than having the title and the direct responsibility because you’re leading through influence. And that ability to lead through influence, I have certainly seen happen on very, very large projects that require strong coordination, strong leadership skills, the ability to challenge other people in order to drive the right outcome. So I think there’s a possibility of those roles existing. I think part of the question is, is that the norm within the company?

Celeste Headlee:
What would that look like though, Loretta, if to lead like that without the title? How does she do that?

Loretta Fellers:
Well, I mean, the behaviors that I’ve seen and I’ve actually been in this situation myself actually years ago, when I moved out of a management position to go work on our integration activities when Dell acquired EMC as an example. And you have 160,000 employees that are now coming together. And I had a very tiny team in order to go drive massive change management for the company around the globe. The way that I modeled the behavior that I thought was needed was number one, you certainly have to make sure that you’re connecting with the various stakeholders that are out there, and you’re trying to build their confidence in your ability to not only think beyond what they care about, but think broadly around what’s most important for the company, right?

Loretta Fellers:
So your ability to pull people together and with diverse backgrounds, I don’t mean just in terms of what they know, but their priorities, their functional orientation, bringing them all together for the common good in your ability to navigate across those different disciplines, to bring a simplified point of view takes a tremendous amount of skill and leadership, in my opinion.

Celeste Headlee:
[Listener], is that something that’s possible for you?

Women Amplified Listener:
Yeah. I mean, I think it’s going to take a little bit of… I should back up. So that already happens, right? Like I think the idea of leading from behind and not necessarily with a title already happens, right? As a project architect, you are rallying all your consultants and still maybe a little less engagement with the client, but it is there. And I have done that, but I think as you tend to move up and just like Loretta is saying, it’s sometimes it’s firm specific and sometimes across the industry. So usually in firms, it’s like, okay, typically your manager will have the client contact, but in smaller firms, you as a project architect have the client contact and you’re more embedded with them on the day-to-day. So the availability of me doing that is there.

Women Amplified Listener:
I think it’s just a matter of A, the project, right? The scale of the project, bigger projects, sometime you obviously definitely need management who’s more engaged. Smaller projects, you may not. Right? So it depends, I think, on the scale of the project, but as you get older and move up in the industry, I think it’s a matter of maybe for me having to find out is there a scale limitation that I want to work within so that I can lead the way that I feel a leader should be on a project as opposed to leading a bigger project and being more hands-off, right, and just doing the management and the scheduling and the dealing with the budgets part of the scope of work.

Women Amplified Listener:
So I think that is available to me. I guess I would need to clarify with my new sponsor, like this is something that I would prefer to do, and if I’m going to do it, then these are the scales of projects I want to work on. However, that can become limiting too. Right? So it’s a balance of where I fit in on a larger project and how I would fit in on a smaller project.

Celeste Headlee:
So, Loretta, I mean a project architect, as I understand it, does do that over the course of their job. What else might she do? And I’m thinking specifically of, it sounds like one of the issues here is the leaders in her firm say there’s no pathway, there’s no connection. There’s no way for the pathway from in the past for a project architect to move into the principal position. How could she go about creating that pathway for herself?

Loretta Fellers:
I think a lot of it comes down to perceived value, right? You have to ask yourself why have they not created that path? You know, I’ve seen various reasons. It could be cost, it could be likelihood of success, or creating a mainstream model where do most people feel the way you do [Listener], and they want to take that path, or are you so unique in your desire that it doesn’t have scale? So I think part of being able to break this down requires you to think about some of those things. I think it’s great to hear that you have an active sponsor who may help you in this effort to try to determine what are those things that could get in the way. And is it really a matter of the company has simply never done this before and you’re breaking into uncharted waters, which by the way, I love if that’s a situation, or is it really a situation where there’s just not any longevity because there lacks scale, in which case.

Women Amplified Listener:
No, I was going to ask you, I didn’t mean to cut you off and you can finish in a minute, but I guess you have a good point about the lack of scale, but then how would I broach that, right? Who do I ask? I guess I can also ask my sponsor. Maybe it has to go above him, but how do you ask that question? Like, “Hey, is there a lack of scale?” Not that I have a problem being vocal about that. I don’t have a problem asking questions, but I think it might be that’s when it gets into the stepping on toes questions. Right?

Loretta Fellers:
Yeah. Well, I think the way that I would approach it is look, if I wanted an opportunity to create a role for myself as an example, and I’m doing something new and different, it’s got to start with the value statement, right? And the value statement has to evolve around, not only what’s good for you, but what’s good for the company.

Women Amplified Listener:
Right.

Loretta Fellers:
And then the question is what are the opportunities for such a need and that’s where it becomes where you could develop a storyline I think where you’re closest to the customers, you’re closest to the business. You would be able identify X scenarios in which this type of career path would make a lot of sense. Right? And that’s when you’ll start to see for yourself, whether or not that scale opportunity is there, or your leader might be able to help you with that.

Loretta Fellers:
But I do think that at the end of the day, it all comes down to what’s good for you, what’s good for the company. And then when does the business have the demand or the opportunity to present the need for people such as yourself to move into those roles? And it may very well be that at the end of the day, you’ll find through this exercise that it’s not a scale requirement. It may be unique to you, but at least you’ve gone through the due diligence. And I would imagine if you’ve got a good sponsor, you can have access to HR resources, et cetera, that would help formulate a frame of thinking here.

Celeste Headlee:
Loretta, how could [Listener], not only advocate for herself, but advocate for herself as a woman of color as an asset, something that brings added value to the company?

Loretta Fellers:
Well, I personally, I believe that diversity plays an enormous role in furthering business. You know, it’s also not just about the representation internally to the company. It’s a representation externally. The customers that you’re serving are diverse, right? The customers that you are serving expect the company that they’re dealing with to care equally about all of their constituents across their industry.

Loretta Fellers:
And they expect some mirror representation of diversity. I think it’s absolutely relevant. My personal experience in this area is that our customers, they may not always talk about it vocally. I think it’s becoming more of an outwardly spoken discussion, but I can tell you, over the past 20 years, they’ve always looked at the relevance of the cultural makeup of who they’re dealing with and whether or not they’ve actually put some muscle behind it, probably we would say no, but I think in today’s environment, they absolutely care who they are working with, who is representing them. And that they know that you as a woman of color will represent every one of their employees as a woman of color in the appropriate way. Right? It’s critical for mirroring those who we serve.

Celeste Headlee:
[Listener], do you feel as though you know how to advocate for yourself, not only as someone who has experienced as a leader and a collaborator, but also as a woman of color?

Women Amplified Listener:
So it’s something I struggle with. My Sponsor and I have been… I mean, it’s a great question. I think I partially struggle with it. You know, when my sponsor, when we started going through the whole process of leadership and talking about it, he’s like, “You have to recognize that you are a role model and a leader, whether you want to admit that or not.” And he’s like, “and I know you struggle with it cause I can see that you do.” And I thought it was interesting cause I was like, “I didn’t know you were paying that close of attention.” But I think that in some respects I do struggle with that. You know, I’m very aware of who I am. Right? I live in United States. It’s not like I am not aware. I was very self-aware growing up and how I was taught. But I also think that an industry and as a society that likes to sometimes erase that it’s a fine balance. So it’s something I have to work on. I mean, I don’t have like a final-

Celeste Headlee:
Can you tell me why you think you struggle with it?

Women Amplified Listener:
Because I think there’s a neutralization that happens in corporate America of your identity, even though we’re taught to, you know, now it’s about this, at least from what I’ve seen, like bring your whole self to work. And I don’t do that. I mean, I know for me, it’s a balance of how much I bring into my workspace and how much I leave out. And I think because, not even I think, I know when I first started working during the reset during ’08 recession is I brought some of myself to work and I left the rest out and I was like, as long as I can perform and do my job, I already knew what the limitations were. And I just couldn’t put those limitations on myself as I took my exams and try to just gain the knowledge through the various companies that I’ve worked at.

Women Amplified Listener:
So I probably have limited my own self in that respect. And I just struggle with it. I don’t know how to answer the question because it’s something I struggle with. And part of it, I struggled with it because I stopped bringing everything I had to work because I feel like it’s not safe. I know at this company it’s a little different, but I’m still feeling it out. But I’ve only been here two and a half years, but in prior spaces, yeah, for me, it’s a protection. It’s preserve my peace, it’s I’m competent. And I have a lot to learn, but I’m competent. I can do the job. But at the same time, I am leery of corporate America. It’s what it is.

Celeste Headlee:
Loretta, thoughts here.

Loretta Fellers:
Well, I look on some levels [Listener], I can completely relate to what you’re saying. And it sounds like you’re maybe still early in your career, right? I think you’ve said in ’08. So, I too, I’m a Hispanic woman and I too have at times felt like I can’t bring my whole self to work, but I will tell you where I have a coach give me some advice years ago. And he asked me about my ability or my desire even to show up as my full self. And I told him, look, kind of similar to you,” I’m not sure that I need to. I’m here to do a job. I want to make sure that I’m credible first and foremost.” And I still believe that number one comes credibility in the work and the results that you deliver. Right?

Loretta Fellers:
That’s absolutely number one. But behind that, the fact of the matter is, is that we are diverse women and there are people watching you every single day. Just like you didn’t think your sponsor was watching you. Guess what? There are people in the company that are also watching you that are younger in their career and they take notes on what you do, how you do it, what you stand up for, what you don’t. The turning point for me over the years was I’m going to call it a sense of confidence in the fact that I knew that I could deliver results for the company. And that was most important to me in the fact that I could be myself, became just a baseline requirement. I’ve got to tell you that it’s a lot more relaxing when you can show up every day without having hiding who you are or what you represent.

Women Amplified Listener:
I agree with you on that. And I think, so with my sponsor, I am my full self with him. They talk about like, “oh, you have to like find a mentor” and whatever. And that just happened organically. Right? And so it was easy. So I can be my full self with him. But I think now that I’ve transferred out of that office and I’m in a new office and I’m just, you know, I just go back into the pensive and I’m watching and I’m like, okay. It is something that I have to work on. I am aware of it. It’s not something that’s going to be fixed overnight. And to your point, you’re right. It’s about my credibility and how I bring myself in. And then when do I feel comfortable enough to say, okay, I can relax.

Women Amplified Listener:
I do understand that, but hearing it and doing it are two different things, right? Like for me, it’s something that I have to actually practice. For some people that’s easy. And I think that also goes into just like you said, like there are younger staff members who are watching and they will tell me. Right? I don’t have an issue with that, I think it’s more like, okay, that is also an act of leadership, right? Like how do I bring myself to work so they can know that it’s okay for them to eventually do that as well, but also still obviously do their job and do it well every day. And you know, I look at that as leadership. And I think that for me, that’s why I’m like, I don’t see why I have to go into this “management” role to prove that.

Women Amplified Listener:
So, there’s so much to it. This is turning into a therapy session. There’s so much to it. And I believe It’s something that I actively work on. Like I think I struggle with it. And even with the question on how to lead, but not going to management, it’s like you said, like I have to do my due diligence and work through that.

Women Amplified Listener:
And even if it’s only for myself, right? Like let’s say that I do the due diligence and I work through it and it still doesn’t lead to necessarily a principal role, but at least I did it and know where I stand as opposed to not doing it. Then in five years I’m asking myself the same question. I don’t want to be in the same place in five years. Right? I barely want to be in the same place in a year, but I think it’s a matter of it’s something I need to take the notes and it’s not going to happen overnight. I know that. But part of it is probably that I do need to relax a little bit because I can be very, very, what’s the word? High strung.

Loretta Fellers:
And I think that the kind of the mantra that I live by it now in my older part of my career here is to live with no regrets. I think that’s what you’re saying. You do the due diligence, you go through the effort to make sure that you do everything you can to find a possible path to this principal role.

Loretta Fellers:
You want no regrets, whether you’re talking about bringing your whole self to work, you’re young in your career, you’ve got a lot of leverage over the course of the years, but looking back and saying, did I do everything I can to show up and to change the environment around me and to change the potential trajectory of some of those younger people that are watching you? Hopefully the answer is yes. So if you can use that as your filter as to whether or not you’ve done everything you can in order to drive that outcome that you want and whatever it is, you become settled in whatever the result is. I think it goes a long way towards building results and quite frankly, peace within, as you progress in your career.

Women Amplified Listener:
I agree with what you’re saying, and I think the other part of that is why is it, and I’m not saying that you have the answer to this, or Celeste has the answer, it’s just I don’t understand when you’re asked, how do you want to do something, and then you respond, why is it so hard for that change to happen? Right? Like I feel if there’s an open invitation then it should be an open collaboration of getting there and not an open invitation and thanks for responding, we’ll get back to you. You know, and I’m not saying that you can answer that question, but it’s something that happens everywhere, right? So it’s not even just specific to me. Right? I think a lot of other women can relate as well. If there’s an open invitation and you respond to that invitation and then it’s just left hanging.

Celeste Headlee:
In other words, you had leadership at your office say, what would you like to do? Where do you see yourself in five years, some version of that, and you told them, and they said, “Oh, we would love to make that happen to you, but we don’t know how.” Is that basically?

Women Amplified Listener:
Yeah. And it’s we don’t know how, and I think it’s a matter of well you should know if you’re asking someone that, the answer might be, oh, you haven’t done that. And I think that they should be prepared for that, right? Like, okay, well we have to take this further. And sometimes it does go further, right, depending on where the person works and sometimes it doesn’t. And so I guess it’s more of, if you ask an open question and you get an answer, you have to work through the answer. Right? And know that perhaps the person will not answer in the structured way that the company is structured.

Loretta Fellers:
Yeah. So maybe if they would’ve put more context around it or parameters that said, [Listener], given this kind of framework of career progression, which path seems like the more likely one versus that open-ended?

Women Amplified Listener:
Right. But I guess that makes it look like, okay, we only have two and you have to pick from one, right? Or we only have five and you pick from one of the five, which makes it look like it’s part of perception. Then it’s also working within the constructs of what a company is, right?

Women Amplified Listener:
Like if I go to Google and they say, these are our roles, then you know that, right? Or you go to Google and they say, well, we have these roles, but you can create your own. Then obviously someone is going to want to create their own. Right? So you have to be open to that creation. And I think that at least from what I’ve seen, even before landing where I am right now and other companies, some companies were open, but then they shut it down and some companies where we’re open and it never came to fruition for the simple fact that it just couldn’t come together. Right? And that was me watching other people move up and figuring out what I want to do.

Loretta Fellers:
Is there any aspect of the current situation that is reflective of the COVID environment? Because I’m just thinking that a lot of companies are not, they’re doing the best they can, but there’s still headwinds that they’re working against. Do you think that that has anything to do with the desire to have the conversation and to look for possible paths to get there?

Women Amplified Listener:
That may be part of it, right? Like obviously a lot of companies dealt with so much, just as we as individuals dealt with so much in the past year and a half, but I think now that we’re starting to see some, I guess light at the end of the tunnel. For myself, I need to circle back on the conversation and say, okay, this is what started last year? Where are we going now? What’s on the table? So I think that’s the ownership on my part, right? Where I can say, okay, this is where I was. I know we got muddled because obviously the whole reopening and everyone was just trying to figure out what we’re doing with life. So I have no problem doing that. Right? Like I’m fully on board with advocating for myself.

Women Amplified Listener:
I don’t have a problem speaking up, but yes, you’re right. I think the other part now is circle back and see exactly where it is, where we are, where I am with them and how to move forward. Right? Otherwise it’s not going to go anywhere. I mean, there’s a million other things they’re managing, which makes sense. And so, that part of that is on me, but based off of what you were saying earlier on, how do I do that? I think I have more clarification on how to present the argument, right? And open argument back up, or I shouldn’t say argument, conversation back up to get the clarity that I need. And so by me getting that clarity, they have clarity and we can work together to move forward and see where it goes.

Celeste Headlee:
You know [Listener], one of the things that I learned over years as an opera singer is that casting directors have very little imagination. Like literally their job is about imagining people in different roles, but they actually aren’t very good at it. And it’s backed up by neurological research that people tend to take the cognitive shortcut. In that human brains naturally see patterns in things. And so when new information comes to us, we try to fit them within a pattern we already know.

Celeste Headlee:
That’s how we prevent ourselves from getting completely caught up in overthinking everything and sort of becoming immobile. And so one of the things that you learn in the performing arts is that you make it as easy as possible for that person. If it requires a leap of imagination, you do everything else possible to fit into that pattern and make it not as big of a cognitive leap. And never having worked in an architect’s office, I don’t know what that looks like, except to say that your principals may struggle to make that leap of imagination. And there may be things that you can do simply to make it easier for them.

Women Amplified Listener:
I’m nodding my head, you can’t see it, but it’s a completely valid point. And for me, I’m just like, I think I’m more baffled. Like how can you not think out of this? Like, I mean, I don’t understand. Right? But you know, everyone’s brain functions differently, right? Like I don’t need to have, if I say, okay, this is option A, and I’m like, okay, option A can have 25 different paths.

Women Amplified Listener:
Some people will say option A has two paths. I’m like, I don’t know why you can make like, there’s two, but there’s derivatives of that. Right? But you’re right. Like people as human beings, we look for probably the pattern and the easy way out, whereas I’m probably not that person. I don’t like patterns like that. That’s something it’s funny that you mentioned that because even in childhood, my teachers in third like, “She thinks a lot differently.” My parents were like, “Yeah, pretty much.” And my friends say it and you know, they’re like your brain just functions a little bit different. And I’m like, I just don’t. I understand patterns. It’s not that I don’t, I just don’t see why I have to use them. And I think that’s the crux of it. Just because it was done that way doesn’t mean you still have to do it that way.

Celeste Headlee:
Yeah, except that’s how human beings think. I mean, you may not struggle to look to, to think of new things in one area, but in another area, maybe it’s the way that you eat, maybe it’s the way you clean your house. Everybody has areas in which they use patterns as a shortcut. And it sounds like in your office, they are using a cognitive shortcut and that cognitive shortcut sort of unplugs them. They’re like, “Wait. One plus one equals two. Why are you telling me it equals three?” And there just maybe ways that you can suddenly show them the math or make yourself look like that one.

Women Amplified Listener:
It’s, I mean, yes. Everything. Yes to everything in that. Yes. This really is like therapy. This is crazy. It’s very helpful.

Celeste Headlee:
Loretta, did you have anything to add there?

Loretta Fellers:
I love that. And I think you’re right that, especially these days with so much going on, the investment in looking at different things and trying to make something work that doesn’t seem obvious is just exactly that, it’s more work. So I think building the foundational level, I think again, starting looking at the industry, trying to understand what other companies do and using that all to create and fit within the profile of how the company’s used to working may be a good path towards getting consensus and buy-in. But I think it’s a great observation Celeste, and I think it’s very, very true. It’s the path of least resistance. Right? And it’s easier to say no than it is to say, “Oh, okay, you built a compelling story here [Listener], I can see where you’re coming from. Wow. We didn’t know that we were missing out on an opportunity or a pathway that exists in other companies that we don’t have it. Wow, we may lose talent if we don’t do something different.” I mean, that could be a potential outcome depending on the information that you come up with.

Celeste Headlee:
Yeah. My voice teacher used to say, “Listen, right now, no is the easiest thing for them to say.” So you have to adjust the levers and make the adjustments so that in fact, yes, is the easiest, like that’s the cognitive shortcut. The shortcut is straight to oh yeah, absolutely, we can do that.

Women Amplified Listener:
Yeah. I mean, I don’t have anything else. It was the best way to wrap. Yes.

Celeste Headlee:
Okay. So you feel as though you have concrete steps that you can take, you know what to do?

Women Amplified Listener:
Yes, I do. I mean, I’m going to obviously relisten to this. But I was having actually a rough morning. It kind of just blew my mind. So this is good. I can go back to my desk. It’s just, I don’t know how this became therapy, but oh, I had a minute, a moment before I came on this call and I think you just, thank you. That’s what I mean to say.

Celeste Headlee:
No problem. Loretta, anything else to add?

Loretta Fellers:
No, I mean, just having the conversation [Listener], I can feel your energy, your spirit, your passion, and your commitment. And it’s a matter of just packaging all this up in the right way to get what you want. Love it.

Women Amplified Listener:
It is packaging. This was so good. I don’t know. It’s only 40 minutes and I just feel like you solved my career problems. Okay. Yeah, I was nervous, but this was… Thank you.

Celeste Headlee:
Well, thank you. Yeah. Thank you for joining us and sharing your experience with us, Loretta and [Listener]. Thank you for being brave enough to bring your questions to a broader audience.

Women Amplified Listener:
No, thank you. And I really appreciate just even the response and listening. And I think, I hope it helps other women who listen to the podcast and I think it’s just not in my industry, it’s outside and hopefully it helps someone else too.

Celeste Headlee:
I hope so, too.

View Transcript

Celeste Headlee:
Okay. So [Listener], you are in a job currently that you like, is that accurate?

Women Amplified Listener:
That’s correct.

Celeste Headlee:
But you want to become not a manager, but a partner. Why?

Women Amplified Listener:
Well, it’s more principles. So in larger architecture firms, you aim for principalship. I believe that through principalship, especially with my role as a project architect, I can demonstrate not just to myself, but to other women and men that women of color can actually lead as design principals. Specifically to my company, when you are a principal, you can achieve that through either going the project management or the design director route. However, as a project architect, you usually don’t move up to principalship unless you change going into project management or design.

Women Amplified Listener:
And I think it’s important for that representation so that other women and specifically women of color know that as a technical project architect or just project architect broadly speaking, that that is something that’s available. Because as of right now, especially for Black women, our numbers are at 0.4% of the registered architect population. And you just don’t hear about us or see us. There was an article a few years ago, like where are the women, like broadly women, architects? We’ve always been here. It’s just, I think there’s a lot of not specifically identifying what we actually do. And maybe that’s a lack of clarity through the industry, but we are here. Right? And we are doing the work. But I think that in terms of moving up into leadership, either it’s not talked about, or we just are not seeing it.

Celeste Headlee:
How many of the principals at your firm are women of color?

Women Amplified Listener:
I think right now, to my understanding, we have three, but they are not necessarily project architects. Right? One is a managing director, another is a principal, she’s more management, and I forget what the last one does. But, as of now there are three and they’re specifically Black women, but I don’t have the demographic number women of color because I haven’t seen it broken out that way.

Celeste Headlee:
Now you informed when you began with this firm, you told your supervisor and your sponsor that you did not want to become a manager of a team. Why was that?

Women Amplified Listener:
So I have previously, at another firm, I have done project management before. When I started at that company, I went in as a PA and within a few months I was moved up to project management, but I was also maintaining the PA role. I learned a lot. I think it’s a valuable asset to have, but I don’t think everyone needs to track on that route in order to “lead”. I think that you can lead as a project architect.

Women Amplified Listener:
I don’t see why you have to follow one specific route to leadership. And actually in any firm that I’ve worked at, I’ve noticed that leadership is always considered a management, but I don’t know why as a project architect who works with the designers on the design and is in the field and getting the project built, can’t lead because to me that’s clearly leadership, right? You need that role, so I just don’t have a love for it. I think that sometimes we get into roles that we’re told by society, like this is the way to move up and I don’t want to. It’s really that simple.

Celeste Headlee:
So when you speak with your supervisor or your sponsor about this, what do they say?

Women Amplified Listener:
So the sponsor that I had prior to transferring to the office that I’m in now, he was completely on board with it. And he told me that it might be challenging because it hasn’t been done this way. And I understand that, right, the structure of a company is the structure of a company. But it’s not impossible just because something hasn’t been done doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. It just means it hasn’t been done. And I had to outline like how I saw myself in a leadership role as a PA and how I wanted to move up and I did that.

Women Amplified Listener:
And I think the next part of it is, okay, how does the company support that? Right? Like where do I go from the fact that I know I don’t want to go into management and how can they support that? That’s really the discussion right now. And I’m not sure on my end how much more I can outline based off of the outline that I already completed, because I feel like at some point, you’re just doing the work for the sake of doing it and nothing is actually getting resolved.

Celeste Headlee:
Loretta, do you feel like you have a good sense of what her issue is?

Loretta Fellers:
I think so. I think I can actually relate to it and can appreciate the challenge that you’re running into, Damali.

Celeste Headlee:
You know, it’s so often that these norms of promotion get established and because they’re the way it’s always been done, that becomes self-fulfilling, right? Then it becomes the way that it is done. How does one go about breaking through norms like that?

Loretta Fellers:
My recommendation and listening to you [Listener], is a couple of things. I heard a couple of problem statements in what you were describing. The first one is really around breaking a norm within your company I’m going to call it, in terms of the expected career path of an architect, a principal architect in your ability to get to that principal role. That would be number one. The second priority that I’m hearing from you, or problem statement, is the lack of representation for women of color in the role of principal. So the two are not mutually exclusive, but yet the two can be approached in different ways, I think, but yet have overlap that could yield benefit to both of your challenges. So, as an example, when I hear you speak about this norm that you’re going against, there’s a couple of thoughts that come to mind.

Loretta Fellers:
I don’t know if the norm is specific to your company or if it’s maybe a specific problem that is also a problem in the industry. I would suggest maybe looking at the industry and I’ve seen this done before, by the way, where someone wants to go change the game and they go and look at industry compares around what is normal and they bring that outside in thinking. I don’t think I would be the first one to say, it’s easy to get stuck in our silo around the company that we’re in. And we believe that that becomes the norm for everything when that’s certainly not the case. Right?

Loretta Fellers:
So gathering some external industry information around what is commonly practiced in the industry, may be an opportunity to provide a foundation for a different conversation with your leadership team. The second thing I would say is that my experience of over 25 years in the industry and with a project management background, I actually think that leading through others without the formal title is way more difficult than having the title and the direct responsibility because you’re leading through influence. And that ability to lead through influence, I have certainly seen happen on very, very large projects that require strong coordination, strong leadership skills, the ability to challenge other people in order to drive the right outcome. So I think there’s a possibility of those roles existing. I think part of the question is, is that the norm within the company?

Celeste Headlee:
What would that look like though, Loretta, if to lead like that without the title? How does she do that?

Loretta Fellers:
Well, I mean, the behaviors that I’ve seen and I’ve actually been in this situation myself actually years ago, when I moved out of a management position to go work on our integration activities when Dell acquired EMC as an example. And you have 160,000 employees that are now coming together. And I had a very tiny team in order to go drive massive change management for the company around the globe. The way that I modeled the behavior that I thought was needed was number one, you certainly have to make sure that you’re connecting with the various stakeholders that are out there, and you’re trying to build their confidence in your ability to not only think beyond what they care about, but think broadly around what’s most important for the company, right?

Loretta Fellers:
So your ability to pull people together and with diverse backgrounds, I don’t mean just in terms of what they know, but their priorities, their functional orientation, bringing them all together for the common good in your ability to navigate across those different disciplines, to bring a simplified point of view takes a tremendous amount of skill and leadership, in my opinion.

Celeste Headlee:
[Listener], is that something that’s possible for you?

Women Amplified Listener:
Yeah. I mean, I think it’s going to take a little bit of… I should back up. So that already happens, right? Like I think the idea of leading from behind and not necessarily with a title already happens, right? As a project architect, you are rallying all your consultants and still maybe a little less engagement with the client, but it is there. And I have done that, but I think as you tend to move up and just like Loretta is saying, it’s sometimes it’s firm specific and sometimes across the industry. So usually in firms, it’s like, okay, typically your manager will have the client contact, but in smaller firms, you as a project architect have the client contact and you’re more embedded with them on the day-to-day. So the availability of me doing that is there.

Women Amplified Listener:
I think it’s just a matter of A, the project, right? The scale of the project, bigger projects, sometime you obviously definitely need management who’s more engaged. Smaller projects, you may not. Right? So it depends, I think, on the scale of the project, but as you get older and move up in the industry, I think it’s a matter of maybe for me having to find out is there a scale limitation that I want to work within so that I can lead the way that I feel a leader should be on a project as opposed to leading a bigger project and being more hands-off, right, and just doing the management and the scheduling and the dealing with the budgets part of the scope of work.

Women Amplified Listener:
So I think that is available to me. I guess I would need to clarify with my new sponsor, like this is something that I would prefer to do, and if I’m going to do it, then these are the scales of projects I want to work on. However, that can become limiting too. Right? So it’s a balance of where I fit in on a larger project and how I would fit in on a smaller project.

Celeste Headlee:
So, Loretta, I mean a project architect, as I understand it, does do that over the course of their job. What else might she do? And I’m thinking specifically of, it sounds like one of the issues here is the leaders in her firm say there’s no pathway, there’s no connection. There’s no way for the pathway from in the past for a project architect to move into the principal position. How could she go about creating that pathway for herself?

Loretta Fellers:
I think a lot of it comes down to perceived value, right? You have to ask yourself why have they not created that path? You know, I’ve seen various reasons. It could be cost, it could be likelihood of success, or creating a mainstream model where do most people feel the way you do [Listener], and they want to take that path, or are you so unique in your desire that it doesn’t have scale? So I think part of being able to break this down requires you to think about some of those things. I think it’s great to hear that you have an active sponsor who may help you in this effort to try to determine what are those things that could get in the way. And is it really a matter of the company has simply never done this before and you’re breaking into uncharted waters, which by the way, I love if that’s a situation, or is it really a situation where there’s just not any longevity because there lacks scale, in which case.

Women Amplified Listener:
No, I was going to ask you, I didn’t mean to cut you off and you can finish in a minute, but I guess you have a good point about the lack of scale, but then how would I broach that, right? Who do I ask? I guess I can also ask my sponsor. Maybe it has to go above him, but how do you ask that question? Like, “Hey, is there a lack of scale?” Not that I have a problem being vocal about that. I don’t have a problem asking questions, but I think it might be that’s when it gets into the stepping on toes questions. Right?

Loretta Fellers:
Yeah. Well, I think the way that I would approach it is look, if I wanted an opportunity to create a role for myself as an example, and I’m doing something new and different, it’s got to start with the value statement, right? And the value statement has to evolve around, not only what’s good for you, but what’s good for the company.

Women Amplified Listener:
Right.

Loretta Fellers:
And then the question is what are the opportunities for such a need and that’s where it becomes where you could develop a storyline I think where you’re closest to the customers, you’re closest to the business. You would be able identify X scenarios in which this type of career path would make a lot of sense. Right? And that’s when you’ll start to see for yourself, whether or not that scale opportunity is there, or your leader might be able to help you with that.

Loretta Fellers:
But I do think that at the end of the day, it all comes down to what’s good for you, what’s good for the company. And then when does the business have the demand or the opportunity to present the need for people such as yourself to move into those roles? And it may very well be that at the end of the day, you’ll find through this exercise that it’s not a scale requirement. It may be unique to you, but at least you’ve gone through the due diligence. And I would imagine if you’ve got a good sponsor, you can have access to HR resources, et cetera, that would help formulate a frame of thinking here.

Celeste Headlee:
Loretta, how could [Listener], not only advocate for herself, but advocate for herself as a woman of color as an asset, something that brings added value to the company?

Loretta Fellers:
Well, I personally, I believe that diversity plays an enormous role in furthering business. You know, it’s also not just about the representation internally to the company. It’s a representation externally. The customers that you’re serving are diverse, right? The customers that you are serving expect the company that they’re dealing with to care equally about all of their constituents across their industry.

Loretta Fellers:
And they expect some mirror representation of diversity. I think it’s absolutely relevant. My personal experience in this area is that our customers, they may not always talk about it vocally. I think it’s becoming more of an outwardly spoken discussion, but I can tell you, over the past 20 years, they’ve always looked at the relevance of the cultural makeup of who they’re dealing with and whether or not they’ve actually put some muscle behind it, probably we would say no, but I think in today’s environment, they absolutely care who they are working with, who is representing them. And that they know that you as a woman of color will represent every one of their employees as a woman of color in the appropriate way. Right? It’s critical for mirroring those who we serve.

Celeste Headlee:
[Listener], do you feel as though you know how to advocate for yourself, not only as someone who has experienced as a leader and a collaborator, but also as a woman of color?

Women Amplified Listener:
So it’s something I struggle with. My Sponsor and I have been… I mean, it’s a great question. I think I partially struggle with it. You know, when my sponsor, when we started going through the whole process of leadership and talking about it, he’s like, “You have to recognize that you are a role model and a leader, whether you want to admit that or not.” And he’s like, “and I know you struggle with it cause I can see that you do.” And I thought it was interesting cause I was like, “I didn’t know you were paying that close of attention.” But I think that in some respects I do struggle with that. You know, I’m very aware of who I am. Right? I live in United States. It’s not like I am not aware. I was very self-aware growing up and how I was taught. But I also think that an industry and as a society that likes to sometimes erase that it’s a fine balance. So it’s something I have to work on. I mean, I don’t have like a final-

Celeste Headlee:
Can you tell me why you think you struggle with it?

Women Amplified Listener:
Because I think there’s a neutralization that happens in corporate America of your identity, even though we’re taught to, you know, now it’s about this, at least from what I’ve seen, like bring your whole self to work. And I don’t do that. I mean, I know for me, it’s a balance of how much I bring into my workspace and how much I leave out. And I think because, not even I think, I know when I first started working during the reset during ’08 recession is I brought some of myself to work and I left the rest out and I was like, as long as I can perform and do my job, I already knew what the limitations were. And I just couldn’t put those limitations on myself as I took my exams and try to just gain the knowledge through the various companies that I’ve worked at.

Women Amplified Listener:
So I probably have limited my own self in that respect. And I just struggle with it. I don’t know how to answer the question because it’s something I struggle with. And part of it, I struggled with it because I stopped bringing everything I had to work because I feel like it’s not safe. I know at this company it’s a little different, but I’m still feeling it out. But I’ve only been here two and a half years, but in prior spaces, yeah, for me, it’s a protection. It’s preserve my peace, it’s I’m competent. And I have a lot to learn, but I’m competent. I can do the job. But at the same time, I am leery of corporate America. It’s what it is.

Celeste Headlee:
Loretta, thoughts here.

Loretta Fellers:
Well, I look on some levels [Listener], I can completely relate to what you’re saying. And it sounds like you’re maybe still early in your career, right? I think you’ve said in ’08. So, I too, I’m a Hispanic woman and I too have at times felt like I can’t bring my whole self to work, but I will tell you where I have a coach give me some advice years ago. And he asked me about my ability or my desire even to show up as my full self. And I told him, look, kind of similar to you,” I’m not sure that I need to. I’m here to do a job. I want to make sure that I’m credible first and foremost.” And I still believe that number one comes credibility in the work and the results that you deliver. Right?

Loretta Fellers:
That’s absolutely number one. But behind that, the fact of the matter is, is that we are diverse women and there are people watching you every single day. Just like you didn’t think your sponsor was watching you. Guess what? There are people in the company that are also watching you that are younger in their career and they take notes on what you do, how you do it, what you stand up for, what you don’t. The turning point for me over the years was I’m going to call it a sense of confidence in the fact that I knew that I could deliver results for the company. And that was most important to me in the fact that I could be myself, became just a baseline requirement. I’ve got to tell you that it’s a lot more relaxing when you can show up every day without having hiding who you are or what you represent.

Women Amplified Listener:
I agree with you on that. And I think, so with my sponsor, I am my full self with him. They talk about like, “oh, you have to like find a mentor” and whatever. And that just happened organically. Right? And so it was easy. So I can be my full self with him. But I think now that I’ve transferred out of that office and I’m in a new office and I’m just, you know, I just go back into the pensive and I’m watching and I’m like, okay. It is something that I have to work on. I am aware of it. It’s not something that’s going to be fixed overnight. And to your point, you’re right. It’s about my credibility and how I bring myself in. And then when do I feel comfortable enough to say, okay, I can relax.

Women Amplified Listener:
I do understand that, but hearing it and doing it are two different things, right? Like for me, it’s something that I have to actually practice. For some people that’s easy. And I think that also goes into just like you said, like there are younger staff members who are watching and they will tell me. Right? I don’t have an issue with that, I think it’s more like, okay, that is also an act of leadership, right? Like how do I bring myself to work so they can know that it’s okay for them to eventually do that as well, but also still obviously do their job and do it well every day. And you know, I look at that as leadership. And I think that for me, that’s why I’m like, I don’t see why I have to go into this “management” role to prove that.

Women Amplified Listener:
So, there’s so much to it. This is turning into a therapy session. There’s so much to it. And I believe It’s something that I actively work on. Like I think I struggle with it. And even with the question on how to lead, but not going to management, it’s like you said, like I have to do my due diligence and work through that.

Women Amplified Listener:
And even if it’s only for myself, right? Like let’s say that I do the due diligence and I work through it and it still doesn’t lead to necessarily a principal role, but at least I did it and know where I stand as opposed to not doing it. Then in five years I’m asking myself the same question. I don’t want to be in the same place in five years. Right? I barely want to be in the same place in a year, but I think it’s a matter of it’s something I need to take the notes and it’s not going to happen overnight. I know that. But part of it is probably that I do need to relax a little bit because I can be very, very, what’s the word? High strung.

Loretta Fellers:
And I think that the kind of the mantra that I live by it now in my older part of my career here is to live with no regrets. I think that’s what you’re saying. You do the due diligence, you go through the effort to make sure that you do everything you can to find a possible path to this principal role.

Loretta Fellers:
You want no regrets, whether you’re talking about bringing your whole self to work, you’re young in your career, you’ve got a lot of leverage over the course of the years, but looking back and saying, did I do everything I can to show up and to change the environment around me and to change the potential trajectory of some of those younger people that are watching you? Hopefully the answer is yes. So if you can use that as your filter as to whether or not you’ve done everything you can in order to drive that outcome that you want and whatever it is, you become settled in whatever the result is. I think it goes a long way towards building results and quite frankly, peace within, as you progress in your career.

Women Amplified Listener:
I agree with what you’re saying, and I think the other part of that is why is it, and I’m not saying that you have the answer to this, or Celeste has the answer, it’s just I don’t understand when you’re asked, how do you want to do something, and then you respond, why is it so hard for that change to happen? Right? Like I feel if there’s an open invitation then it should be an open collaboration of getting there and not an open invitation and thanks for responding, we’ll get back to you. You know, and I’m not saying that you can answer that question, but it’s something that happens everywhere, right? So it’s not even just specific to me. Right? I think a lot of other women can relate as well. If there’s an open invitation and you respond to that invitation and then it’s just left hanging.

Celeste Headlee:
In other words, you had leadership at your office say, what would you like to do? Where do you see yourself in five years, some version of that, and you told them, and they said, “Oh, we would love to make that happen to you, but we don’t know how.” Is that basically?

Women Amplified Listener:
Yeah. And it’s we don’t know how, and I think it’s a matter of well you should know if you’re asking someone that, the answer might be, oh, you haven’t done that. And I think that they should be prepared for that, right? Like, okay, well we have to take this further. And sometimes it does go further, right, depending on where the person works and sometimes it doesn’t. And so I guess it’s more of, if you ask an open question and you get an answer, you have to work through the answer. Right? And know that perhaps the person will not answer in the structured way that the company is structured.

Loretta Fellers:
Yeah. So maybe if they would’ve put more context around it or parameters that said, [Listener], given this kind of framework of career progression, which path seems like the more likely one versus that open-ended?

Women Amplified Listener:
Right. But I guess that makes it look like, okay, we only have two and you have to pick from one, right? Or we only have five and you pick from one of the five, which makes it look like it’s part of perception. Then it’s also working within the constructs of what a company is, right?

Women Amplified Listener:
Like if I go to Google and they say, these are our roles, then you know that, right? Or you go to Google and they say, well, we have these roles, but you can create your own. Then obviously someone is going to want to create their own. Right? So you have to be open to that creation. And I think that at least from what I’ve seen, even before landing where I am right now and other companies, some companies were open, but then they shut it down and some companies where we’re open and it never came to fruition for the simple fact that it just couldn’t come together. Right? And that was me watching other people move up and figuring out what I want to do.

Loretta Fellers:
Is there any aspect of the current situation that is reflective of the COVID environment? Because I’m just thinking that a lot of companies are not, they’re doing the best they can, but there’s still headwinds that they’re working against. Do you think that that has anything to do with the desire to have the conversation and to look for possible paths to get there?

Women Amplified Listener:
That may be part of it, right? Like obviously a lot of companies dealt with so much, just as we as individuals dealt with so much in the past year and a half, but I think now that we’re starting to see some, I guess light at the end of the tunnel. For myself, I need to circle back on the conversation and say, okay, this is what started last year? Where are we going now? What’s on the table? So I think that’s the ownership on my part, right? Where I can say, okay, this is where I was. I know we got muddled because obviously the whole reopening and everyone was just trying to figure out what we’re doing with life. So I have no problem doing that. Right? Like I’m fully on board with advocating for myself.

Women Amplified Listener:
I don’t have a problem speaking up, but yes, you’re right. I think the other part now is circle back and see exactly where it is, where we are, where I am with them and how to move forward. Right? Otherwise it’s not going to go anywhere. I mean, there’s a million other things they’re managing, which makes sense. And so, that part of that is on me, but based off of what you were saying earlier on, how do I do that? I think I have more clarification on how to present the argument, right? And open argument back up, or I shouldn’t say argument, conversation back up to get the clarity that I need. And so by me getting that clarity, they have clarity and we can work together to move forward and see where it goes.

Celeste Headlee:
You know [Listener], one of the things that I learned over years as an opera singer is that casting directors have very little imagination. Like literally their job is about imagining people in different roles, but they actually aren’t very good at it. And it’s backed up by neurological research that people tend to take the cognitive shortcut. In that human brains naturally see patterns in things. And so when new information comes to us, we try to fit them within a pattern we already know.

Celeste Headlee:
That’s how we prevent ourselves from getting completely caught up in overthinking everything and sort of becoming immobile. And so one of the things that you learn in the performing arts is that you make it as easy as possible for that person. If it requires a leap of imagination, you do everything else possible to fit into that pattern and make it not as big of a cognitive leap. And never having worked in an architect’s office, I don’t know what that looks like, except to say that your principals may struggle to make that leap of imagination. And there may be things that you can do simply to make it easier for them.

Women Amplified Listener:
I’m nodding my head, you can’t see it, but it’s a completely valid point. And for me, I’m just like, I think I’m more baffled. Like how can you not think out of this? Like, I mean, I don’t understand. Right? But you know, everyone’s brain functions differently, right? Like I don’t need to have, if I say, okay, this is option A, and I’m like, okay, option A can have 25 different paths.

Women Amplified Listener:
Some people will say option A has two paths. I’m like, I don’t know why you can make like, there’s two, but there’s derivatives of that. Right? But you’re right. Like people as human beings, we look for probably the pattern and the easy way out, whereas I’m probably not that person. I don’t like patterns like that. That’s something it’s funny that you mentioned that because even in childhood, my teachers in third like, “She thinks a lot differently.” My parents were like, “Yeah, pretty much.” And my friends say it and you know, they’re like your brain just functions a little bit different. And I’m like, I just don’t. I understand patterns. It’s not that I don’t, I just don’t see why I have to use them. And I think that’s the crux of it. Just because it was done that way doesn’t mean you still have to do it that way.

Celeste Headlee:
Yeah, except that’s how human beings think. I mean, you may not struggle to look to, to think of new things in one area, but in another area, maybe it’s the way that you eat, maybe it’s the way you clean your house. Everybody has areas in which they use patterns as a shortcut. And it sounds like in your office, they are using a cognitive shortcut and that cognitive shortcut sort of unplugs them. They’re like, “Wait. One plus one equals two. Why are you telling me it equals three?” And there just maybe ways that you can suddenly show them the math or make yourself look like that one.

Women Amplified Listener:
It’s, I mean, yes. Everything. Yes to everything in that. Yes. This really is like therapy. This is crazy. It’s very helpful.

Celeste Headlee:
Loretta, did you have anything to add there?

Loretta Fellers:
I love that. And I think you’re right that, especially these days with so much going on, the investment in looking at different things and trying to make something work that doesn’t seem obvious is just exactly that, it’s more work. So I think building the foundational level, I think again, starting looking at the industry, trying to understand what other companies do and using that all to create and fit within the profile of how the company’s used to working may be a good path towards getting consensus and buy-in. But I think it’s a great observation Celeste, and I think it’s very, very true. It’s the path of least resistance. Right? And it’s easier to say no than it is to say, “Oh, okay, you built a compelling story here [Listener], I can see where you’re coming from. Wow. We didn’t know that we were missing out on an opportunity or a pathway that exists in other companies that we don’t have it. Wow, we may lose talent if we don’t do something different.” I mean, that could be a potential outcome depending on the information that you come up with.

Celeste Headlee:
Yeah. My voice teacher used to say, “Listen, right now, no is the easiest thing for them to say.” So you have to adjust the levers and make the adjustments so that in fact, yes, is the easiest, like that’s the cognitive shortcut. The shortcut is straight to oh yeah, absolutely, we can do that.

Women Amplified Listener:
Yeah. I mean, I don’t have anything else. It was the best way to wrap. Yes.

Celeste Headlee:
Okay. So you feel as though you have concrete steps that you can take, you know what to do?

Women Amplified Listener:
Yes, I do. I mean, I’m going to obviously relisten to this. But I was having actually a rough morning. It kind of just blew my mind. So this is good. I can go back to my desk. It’s just, I don’t know how this became therapy, but oh, I had a minute, a moment before I came on this call and I think you just, thank you. That’s what I mean to say.

Celeste Headlee:
No problem. Loretta, anything else to add?

Loretta Fellers:
No, I mean, just having the conversation [Listener], I can feel your energy, your spirit, your passion, and your commitment. And it’s a matter of just packaging all this up in the right way to get what you want. Love it.

Women Amplified Listener:
It is packaging. This was so good. I don’t know. It’s only 40 minutes and I just feel like you solved my career problems. Okay. Yeah, I was nervous, but this was… Thank you.

Celeste Headlee:
Well, thank you. Yeah. Thank you for joining us and sharing your experience with us, Loretta and [Listener]. Thank you for being brave enough to bring your questions to a broader audience.

Women Amplified Listener:
No, thank you. And I really appreciate just even the response and listening. And I think, I hope it helps other women who listen to the podcast and I think it’s just not in my industry, it’s outside and hopefully it helps someone else too.

Celeste Headlee:
I hope so, too.