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Episode 7: Elisa Steele chats with Tanya Bakalov about work-life balance and prioritization

HelloTeam is proud to welcome Elisa Steele, Chairwoman of Namely, onto the seventh episode of the Culture Corner Podcast. Listen as Elisa talks with Tanya Bakalov about her journey from searching for her first job out of college to taking multiple executive roles. She also shares her thoughts on how sales positions shaped her skillset, how to choose roles and opportunities, and the difference between working with male and female executives. Listen on Spotify, Amazon Music and more!

Podcast Guide

2:20 – Elisa reminisces on starting her career, “My number one motivator when I was looking for my first job after getting out of college was I wanted to be independent. My parents had paid for everything that I had done or taken out student loans for me to go to college, and it was my turn to say, how do I take care of myself? How do I be financially independent?”

3:35 – And Tanya reminisces on the beginning of her own career,  “The first thing I had to learn how to deal with was the cold call. And I can remember, it was the most dreaded exercise of my day, you know, getting up at 8am and trying to make those phone calls. I admire you for choosing that as your first career.”

6:21 – Elisa on being on her alma mater’s Board of Entrepreneurship, “And a lot of times we talk to students, and we often say like, why isn’t there a class that teaches you how to do sales? Because it’s all those soft skills that you learn about storytelling about what you just said, how to influence to make people’s decisions? How do you connect, you know, a buyer to the ultimate outcome? And it’s such a tough, tough job, but it teaches you a lot of very important skills that I’m sure you brought with the rest of you.”

10:52 – Elisa – “For any career ambition you have, whether it’s to run a sales organization, run a marketing organization, be a CEO, run a product group, run an operational group, being in sales, for a period of time to really understand how your company – or how any company – has to develop a growth plan through a selling plan is hugely valuable. So yes, as a CMO, it was hugely valuable.”

14:19 – Elisa on becoming the CEO of Jive, “And I would say honestly, throughout my career, I never had ambitions to become a CEO. It just sort of presented itself as I kept following my passions and my desires to have an impact on the company, the employees and our customers.”

15:47 –  Elisa answering a question from Tanya about how she chooses roles and opportunities, “Some of the hardest things in your career are working alongside or with or for people that maybe you’re not aligned with on values, or you don’t have a trusted relationship, those are kind of the hardest thing. So as you start to make these decisions, as you go forward in a career, I really look for kind of that deep connection, that there would be a relationship there.”

18:31 – Elisa on being on the board of Bumble, “We’re over 70% females on a public company, board, it’s, it’s really awesome. And it’s a different dynamic, I have to say, I mean, it’s just different when there’s more women in the room versus less women in the room. And then there are mom boards where, you know, I started out as the only woman and now I’m one of two or one of three or one of four, which is fantastic.”

21:27 – Elisa, in response to a question from Tanya about being unsure of your direction, “There’s also this experience of life where you don’t have to know exactly what you want to do. You go and you experience things, do a couple of years and in, in a small company…I think that’s actually fantastic. Because I would never have never known oh, I want to run a product organization. Really? How would I have known that? I only knew that because I had these experiences.”

24:14 – Elisa on a question about work-life balance, “And I was typically one of the few or the only female execs at that particular time. I always got the questions. So Elisa, like, you know, you’re the woman in the room, you have two kids. So how do you do work life balance? And I would try to figure out an answer to that question. And oh, well, you know, I’ve got it down. Well, I don’t have it down.”

25:23 – continued, “I don’t want the world to tell me, I can’t do something, I would rather say, I’m going to do all that I want to do. And I’m going to prioritize it. So I don’t have work life balance, I have work, life integration. It’s just like my love. It’s like, it’s life with my kids. It’s life with my family, it’s life with my work. It’s life with my team, it’s life with my colleagues. And every day, every month, every quarter, there’s a different priority that I’m trying to accomplish.”

27:10 – Tanya in response, “I love that, work life integration. I was also at my small CEO forum, like you said, you know, it’s a lonely job at the top. So you try to get as many experiences from fellow people and mentors, and we were talking about work-life balance, and one of the guys actually in the group said, ‘You know, Tanya, you don’t organize your life around work, you organize your work around life.’”

29:34 – Elisa on one of her favorite books, “So you know, since we’ve talked a lot about career today, I’ll give you a business book that I love. But then I’ll give you a footnote about other stuff I read. But one of the best books I ever read, ever, and I still have it – it’s called The Hard Thing About Hard Things. And it’s by Ben Randolph – that book I’ve read many times.”

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