Member Spotlight: Maggie Harmon

06/08/2016 8:37 AM | Anonymous


Job / Title: Management Consultant – Leadership Coach/Partner, COO/Co-founder and Author of ‘Til Now, a memoir about growing up in an addicted home and finding my way to recovery and reality.
Company: theBATstudio and KWAD
Industry: Business Management/Operations, Start-up Social Media and Social Connection, Lifestyle, Leadership, Self-help


Q: From your perspective, what are the most important trends that will take place in your industry in the next 10 years?

Maggie: The way we use and interact with social media has become isolating and promotes a need for constant validation that feeds on insecurity and that has affected the way we connect with people. Facebook was an amazing tool initially. Now it keeps us behind a screen seeking “likes” for the carefully staged, selected, and filtered images of our life. Is that really an authentic life worth living?! To address this problem of authenticity I have developed two apps, what’sbumpin for college and CUltr for everyone. Fundamentally, they are about social connection and helping users find and create ways to actually connect with other people that I believe is much needed. With CUltr you can add an event, make it public or private, invite people, and share the event on external social media to boost participation. You can also open up the app and see what is going on around you. With a quick click you let people know that you are “in” for something. I see it being a great tool for something like the CLUB, where we can load all the events coming up, create a CLUB group (and sub-groups), and then manage attendance, updates, programming, etc. through the app. For instance, rather than getting an email from my East Bay group coordinator, having to respond via email or through the CLUB portal, and then waiting to get an email update, instead I could receive an update via the app, click a button saying “I’m in,” and then if something changes, I get an immediate alert. As more and more people use the app, the machine learning kicks in to start making recommendations for events and activities based on preferences and anonymized behavior from other users. The goal is to give you more options to have in-person experiences, free of screens!

Q: What have been the hallmarks of your success?

Maggie: Refusing to accept the word “no” or that there is only one way to do something have been the hallmarks of my success. I grew up in an abusive home and was regularly told why I couldn’t do something. As I was growing up I was repeatedly told that I wasn’t smart enough, I wasn’t accomplished enough, I wasn’t sophisticated enough. It took me a while to realize that even though the path may be hard, faith, success, and patience is what my success is built on.

I started my professional journey by going to community college and then transferred to UC Davis. Despite many messages to the contrary, I took my studies seriously and gave it my best. The old sayings are true about hard work and perseverance – there really isn’t a better formula for wanting to achieve something. I often had to work 2-3 jobs, I never failed to work, and I think that structure really kept me moving when it would have been easier to just take a break. I was also, honestly, often motivated by some fear. If I left school I would have to start paying back my loans and likely move home – I really didn’t want to do either of those things so I just kept working. One of the things that helped was the feeling that even if I made a mistake with what I was studying, even if I didn’t know 100% that this was the right path, nothing I was doing would hurt me – it would just be something that became additive to anything else I did in the future.

With my apps I have heard it all from others and my own self-criticism! I have faced pervasive negativity from “you can’t succeed with a start-up” to “if you don’t go to Y Combinator you are doomed” to “if you don’t get success in the first 30 days, you’ll never get it”. I continually work to rise above and ignore this noise, acknowledge the difficulty of the goal, and regularly asked for help. Offering my full self is a great strategy to defeat my own imposter syndrome and the low expectations of others. For example, I find that it is really important to be honest with other people. If I am nervous during a presentation I will often acknowledge the feeling and this acceptance of myself helps others to accept me and appreciate my authenticity.

Once I was speaking at a major technology conference in Canada right after Arianna Huffington. To say that I was so nervous to follow Arianna was an understatement. So, I opened my remark with, “I am a basket case folks. I love Arianna and am just gonna have to take a second to calm down. She is a very tough act to follow!” And everyone laughed. I relaxed and gave one of the best speeches in my career.

Q: What is your recommendation for choosing a good mentor?

Maggie: Be selective and follow through. Today relationships are not as meaningful. We go to an event, make a connection, get on Linkedin, and then abandon the relationship. To find a mentor you have to develop another strategy. I recommend finding someone who has something that you want – be it a position, a job title, a style or something else – and then connect, be authentic and ask them to share their experience with you. Most importantly, think about ways to make a relationship long term and mutually beneficial. It is also a good idea to use different mentors for different kinds of help you want. You rarely find everything in one person! Sometimes we are drawn to someone. If you do not have a connection right away, it is okay to say “I would love to sit with you for 30 minutes and hear you talk about what you do.” Sometimes we don’t have a particular question to ask or a problem to be solved, but these conversations yield a great response, deeper connections, and longer relationships.

Q: What are the hallmark traits of a great leader that you have observed in your career? How important is developing a management style?

Maggie: Getting to know yourself and being authentic are the hallmark traits of a great leader. And so your management style must reflect you and your values. Understanding what is important to you and how that fits into the work you do is a great place to start. Reflecting you and your values in how you manage helps you show up authentically and consistently to your work, projects, and social engagements!

Q: What advice would you give to someone looking to grow in her career while making time for her family?

Maggie: You can’t do it all! No one wants to hear this, but it is true. The sooner you accept this, the easier it gets to find some balance. If you want to be home at 5 every night to make dinner and spend time with your family, then you are going to sacrifice certain opportunities and vice-versa. Don’t judge yourself, but do take the time to understand what matters to you and then own your choices.

Q: Tell us something about yourself that is a fun fact.

Maggie: I spend 10-15 hours a week on conference calls. To prevent myself from “multitasking,” I knit during calls. It keeps my hands busy and allows my mind to be totally present for the call. But I only knit simple things so I don’t have to think about what I am doing – hats and scarves! It is a great way to keep my hands busy and my mind focused and alert.

Q: In what areas can you give advice to other CLUB members as part of the CLUB mentoring program?

Maggie: I don’t know until you ask – but please do! I am happy to listen and provide a perspective, that’s the best mentoring I know. There is no such a thing as amazing canned advice. We need to connect and develop a relationship. And then I have a shot at giving you advice that fits you and your goals.

One quote that I keep close and refer to often is: “Feelings aren’t facts.” It may feel trite, but if there is one piece of advice that applies to everyone and in so many aspects of life, it is this – be authentic to yourself and give yourself the freedom to explore the reality of your feelings. Too often we act based on feelings and they may not be our truest guide in empowering our lives.

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