Reflections on Episode 8 with Ingrid Lindberg, Chief Customer Experience Officer

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I just finished listening to the interview with Ingrid for the third time!  There are so many key points in here that I find it hard to leave anything out!  To start, Ingrid Lindberg is the founding owner of Chief Customer Consulting. She is the first person to hold the title of CXO, or Chief Customer Experience Officer. From the early age of 14, Ingrid began working full-time at a salon; she soon worked her way into retail, and then retail management at the age of 17. Leveraging her customer service experience, she took advantage of opportunities to catapult into the world of customer experience, which was really just becoming a thing when she got into it.

I hope all humans listen to this episode. There is so much to learn. Starting with how we raise our children… *if we decide to have them.  Ingrid’s parents allowed her access to many people and places at a young age.  They allowed her to be present and have a voice no matter her age or level of understanding.  This gave way to confidence and the belief that

“Your voice matters. Raise it. Own it. Use it.”

I believe that this courage and curiosity is decided at such a young age, which means we must be intentional in our parenting to make room for nurturing this confidence! I think this gives Ingrid the ability to stand firm in who she is and not conform.

“I was 20 years younger than any of my peers, at best. I didn’t fit the mold at all. I have not been very good at packaging myself into one of those female execs who disappears. I don’t do that… I’ve not played a lot of those roles that female executives have, where they either try to conform to that boys club or frankly just try to disappear as a human…. ”

She also faced adversity being raised in a single parent home and had to help provide for her family.  I have a similar story where my mother was a teacher and had to go back to school to get a nursing degree to be able to care for her 4 children. This also fueled me to get a degree where I could take care of myself no matter what… I think this goes into many career choices, and the silver lining is that we can change, grow, or start a new challenge at any time of our lives.

I love how Ingrid combines her work and her degree in sociology to follow her passion of learning more about people.  Like me, she finds humans so interesting and set out to study them. I know this passion is why she was so successful in customer service. Jumping into leadership at an early age, she was faced with many uncomfortable moments where she is lucky to have been given an early understanding of how much her voice mattered.

I am so thankful for Ingrid and how she speaks her truth.  She worked very hard to build a successful career, and this gives her the freedom to overcome many fears we face as leaders in male-dominated fields…”There’s so much fear that drives silence.”

I think freedom gives her the strength to stand up in situations like this one:

“I don’t know how to do things like say, ‘Oh Joe, that’s a brilliant idea. Thank you so much for coming up with it.’ I say things like, ‘Joe, I’m sorry you felt like you had to restate something I said 20 minutes ago. Would you like me to be clearer next time?’ ”

May we all strive for this level of bravery. Especially when it comes to the ownership of our ideas.  If we don’t standup for ourselves, we will lose out.

For this next part, I am thankful for Ingrid giving us the opportunity to discuss this.  I can remember having dinner with colleagues and it being assumed that I would be dismissed after dinner as the men would move venues and continue to network… It was like something out of the Titanic movie where “she talks of the men retiring to brandy and cigars”.  I, like Ingrid, will not be “dismissed.” The next few quotes may shock some, but I can assure you this is the world we live in.  If you are around top leaders, you will be put in these uncomfortable settings and you will have to decide how to manage it.

Like Lynn told us, you will need to be prepared to know your boundaries… This will be different for all of us, but know you have the right to sit at the table if you choose to. You also have the right not to…

“Corporate America has been built around the support of the fraternity, from the places where “deals are done” to the business that is done over brown liquor and cigars. The fraternity was built to help men get from one stage to another is one that seems impenetrable for women… Fraternities have built a certain kind of toxic business environment of insiders and exclusion. I questioned the assumption that I should try to join.”

“When I was managing a team of all men who would invite me to lunches, but would never take me to Friday night happy hour… so I followed them once. And walked straight into the strip club that was three and a half blocks from work. And sat down with them and said, “hey, I’m a part of this team and if I have to sit here to remind you I’m a part of this team, then I’ll sit here to remind you that I’m a part of this team.”

This reminds me of a conversation I had recently that started with the question, ‘How do you decide who to hang out with at business events?’  The response was “ I am very particular about who I go out with.  I have to trust them completely”.   I believe this is where women need to invest their time growing their network.  We need to have the same “I’ve got your back or I’ll protect you” peer group that the men in our network have… It’s worth studying.  I am not saying we all need to start meeting in the red light district, but we should continue to meet and grow in trusting each other.

We can continue this conversation around building trust in a peer group – let me know if you’ll be at any upcoming events and we’ll see if we can Connect with Purpose!

On to the next episode

Reflecting on episode 7 of the Empowering Women Podcast

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I really enjoyed the last two episodes because they opened my eyes to additional career paths that are meaningful and have an element of responsibility to our communities.
Drena’s story makes me feel like I am getting something right in terms of leadership. Fascinated that STEM careers can include things like makeup counters which I do spend time at from time to time.  So many areas to talk about, but I’ll focus on these areas: Mentoring, Leadership, Belief.
One reason Drena was successful in her career was because she actively seeks mentors and sponsors strategically along her path. As she looked to grow in an area or skill, she would look to a leader in that space to sponsor or educate her in the skills she needed.
I loved how she discussed how her career was mostly influencing others’ behaviors. She discussed how influencing is basically done through storytelling and listening for pain points or problems that can be solved.  Communication is key to the success of a business.  The better we can communicate with others, the better our workforce becomes.
I believe her leadership style aligns with mine. I am also very focused on continuous learning.  I call it continuous improvement, but I see the only way to improve is to learn from our failures and successes.  She also asks people to stretch.  I am always pushing my team outside their comfort zone while focusing on building strengths.
“Tackling today’s challenges” – I make sure my team is involved in the strategy of our company and consistently check in with them to make sure they are working on something they are passionate about.  I believe we are all more driven when we feel we are making an impact on something we care about in our core being.
This was probably my favorite quote Drena stated:  “As a leader, we must trust our own voice and opinion and stop undervaluing it or playing small.”  I still struggle with this, but I am improving.  I am thankful to Drena for sharing her challenges so I feel less alone in those feelings.  Thank you, Drena!
I also wanted to highlight the importance of being bold and having the courage to (like Drena says) “Make the Ask.”  Whether you are trying to climb the ladder, obtain hands-on experience, just get an Ally! Go ahead and ask for it.

Reflecting on Episode 6 of the Empowering Women Podcast

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This episode features Sepi Saidi, Civil Engineer & Entrepreneur, Founding Owner of SEPI, Inc. Sepi is a visionary leader who founded SEPI Engineering & Construction in 2001 and has led the company to become a premier full service civil, environmental planning, and construction management engineering firm in the Southeast. One insight Sepi shares in this podcast is: “It’s about choosing… making decisions that create happiness and balance for your family, your particular lifestyle, and what’s important to you. [You can] craft that. Craft your life.” This really resonated with me because, like Sepi, I too decided to “craft my life” as an entrepreneur. In fact, this month, I am celebrating my 8th year in business!

Entrepreneurs face various obstacles and find the courage to overcome barriers. Sepi has conquered her own set of challenges. I can’t imagine what it was like for her moving to a different country and the culture shock that had to follow. I can relate to building a business through hard work and believing in the vision. There is so much truth in success being tied to your belief in yourself and your dream. Sepi talks about entrepreneurship taking persistence. We both started our companies not knowing anything about starting a business and that comes with learning by doing!  It is about being curious, asking questions, and doing the research to gain the knowledge you need to accomplish the tasks.

I love how Sepi talks about building her team.  Building a team that believes in your mission and also has the skills to execute. She discusses how a leader should be able to step out and the team effectively run without her, as well as the leader stepping back in to collaborate on ideas and making sure all voices and perspectives are being heard. Growing a productive team is necessary to the health of a startup. I remember when I was at my limit, and the only way I would be able to continue to grow is to invest in personnel to help take my business to the next level.  Ensuring our team is working well together in a collaborative and supportive environment is my primary focus now. I loved when Sepi discusses bringing your “whole self” into the office.  Openly talking about what is happening with us personally is important to an enjoyable work life. I also hope that I have built a company that allows everyone on the team the flexibility to “craft their own life!”

Sepi’s take on life is so refreshing, and I absolutely see why she is successful. She understand the reality of bias in the workplace and faces those challenges head-on.  Beginning her career as an engineer in a male-dominated industry, she knows that bias is present. She uses a curiosity mindset instead of judgement to gain a better understanding of the situation.  Most good people discriminate unconsciously, and so if we talk about and highlight these things, people who do these things without knowing will see their own bias and will adjust. These steps will lead us in the right direction to having a more inclusive workforce.

I want to encourage you that if you feel overwhelmed by bias in the workplace, don’t give up on your dream. If you need to remove yourself and take a break to be sure the company still aligns with your goals, do that.  But then, make sure you identify the problem and focus on bringing solutions to the table. Sepi inspires us to “focus not only on the results but offer solutions.”

In the end, she reminded me of a Ted Talk that has been my mindset for years now…

  1. Face Your Fears.
  2. Ask yourself “So What!”   What is the worst that can happen?
  3. Think… If they don’t like me, they just don’t know me yet!

Sepi calls us as Leaders to be visible and show our passion for our work. In her case, for engineering and entrepreneurship!  What is your passion?  Start your journey in being visible by commenting below!

On to the next podcast…

Reflections on Episode 5 of the Empowering Women Podcast

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In episode 5, Mel discusses work-life balance with Jackie Saling!  Jackie has over seventeen years of professional experience in the environmental consulting industry and is a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Michigan. At Arcadis, Ms. Saling is lead engineer for several large accounts where she develops technical project strategy, effectively communicates complex technical concepts to clients, regulators, and stakeholders, and builds strong technical project teams to execute complex technical solutions to meet the needs of clients. Ms. Saling supports the in-situ remediation discipline at Arcadis and has led the air sparge and soil vapor extraction (AS/SVE) and in-situ chemical oxidation (ISCO) communities of practice. Through these roles, she is known as a national resource within the company to provide assistance with the evaluation of Sites for the use of in situ remedies; designing and performing field pilot tests; full scale design and implementation; and optimization of the operation of in situ remedies. In addition, Ms. Saling’s engineering-related experience includes developing feasibility studies and remedial strategies; designing and performing pilot tests; designing and installing full-scale remediation systems; troubleshooting and optimizing remedial systems; generating design specifications, remedial investigation work plans, remedial action work plans, and associated project reports; developing project budgets; and preparing cost analyses for remedial alternatives.

It took me a while to get started writing my reflections to this podcast because I could relate to all of it…  I felt connected to Jackie almost immediately.  Her truth and authenticity was so refreshing and I thought… “I could hang out with this lady!” Personally and Professionally, I truly respected her leadership and communication styles that I heard throughout the interview.

The first thing that got my attention was her discussion about her life as a working mom.  Being a mom is hard.  Being a working mom is demanding on you mentally and physically.  I loved Jackie’s openness saying “It is Hard!” Jackie explains that we need to accept help from those who offer. To appreciate the gifts of the other people in your life and to recognize these will not be the same as yours.   I often times tried to do it all myself and would run myself to exhaustion. Now I remind my daughter all the time,  “it is ok to receive help”

We put so much pressure on ourselves and judge working moms vs stay-at-home moms after our children go to elementary school.  This is not a fair comparison nor a productive one.  Suddenly we receive 500 flyers letting us know how you are not at school enough. If we accept this lie (we are telling ourselves), we will be defeated.  Similarly to Jackie, I made a conscious decision to define my own balance. I don’t signup for things just to be signing up anymore.  I also agree with Jackie that giving up anytime with our children MUST be for something meaningful!  We work not for a paycheck, but to do our part to better our communities for our children.

I am also so thankful for the discussion about choosing a supportive partner that understands your commitment to your career.  I think this partnership is the only way for success in today’s society.  We must stop saying “homeroom mom” and start letting “parents” participate in the raising of our children.   AND let me just say, Jackie women all over the world are envious of the “folder of the laundry” you found!  I can’t even pay someone to do it at my house 😀

I have two sons and a daughter and I have the challenge of raising them all to be leaders and respect their unique gifts. I often times get push back when I am all about girl power from husband and my sons.  It is very important to me that my sons know the value of women and girls and how to be supportive. Navigating the correct amount of attention to certain topics is not an easy task, but I loved how Jackie spoke about educating her girls on leadership.   If we take that position, we will be developing our sons and daughters ability to succeed… as leaders.

It is refreshing to hear Jackie share the truths about her challenges along the way.  When she talks about coming from college with a diverse community to the male dominated workspace, I can relate. You gradually feel that you are more and more singled out the further to push to grow or advance in your career.

She navigated this by looking to senior female leadership.  I believe this is one of the keys to success.  We need to make sure we have a peer group to connect with on a regular basis.  I agree with her when she says networking is everything!

Listening to Jackie’s career journey, I am reminded just how important hands-on, field work can be to progressing in your career. Jackie talks about how she was able to design systems, watch them be installed, and then operated them.  What a great way to learn… from design to operating!

Jackie has a curiosity for learning new things and taking on challenges.  Early in her career, she read books to gain the technical knowledge she needed.  I love the excitement you can hear in her voice as she talks about first meeting the “writer of the resource books” which set her path in remediation.

Her expertise in Remediation is impressive in itself, but she took it one step forward when she worked on the Arcadis pro-bono project.  This project allowed her to improve the quality of life for her community.   Check it out here: :

She is focused on going above and beyond.  Simply managing technical people and products, isn’t all she does.   She is actively connecting with the management staff at Arcadis to make sure they are bringing up the next generation of leaders!

If you haven’t listened to Jackie’s podcast episode, please take the time. It was truly inspiring!

Time for me to listen to the next episode!


Reflections on The Empowering Women Podcast – Episode 4

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In this latest episode, #4, Mel the Engineer engages with Christen Wood, a Wastewater Operator & Operations Administrator at the County of Summit Department of Sanitary Sewer Services. She has been working in the wastewater field since 2008- first at the City of Ashtabula wastewater laboratory, then in both laboratory and operations roles for the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District. Her education includes a Master of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Findlay. She currently holds certifications as a Professional Operator, Wastewater Treatment Class IV; Ohio Class III Wastewater Operator; and Ohio Class II Wastewater Analyst. She is passionate about the Operations Challenge competition and sharing the excitement of clean water with the world, including through the wastewater Twitter community as @sewer_chic. Her achievements include OWEA Professional Wastewater Operations Award, NESOWEA Herb Hansen Award, and writing the winning WEF Fight Song: Treat the Water Right.

If you have followed my journey, you know I am passionate about the water industry, and so there are many quotes I can share from Christen’s interview. Let me just start with the most important!

The doctors of the world are very celebrated as they should be, but wastewater operators save more lives each year by protecting the waters that people are drinking and fishing and swimming in….”

Let’s just pause and think about a world without clean water….

  • No Water
  • No Coffee
  • No Beer
  • No Wine
  • No Swimming
  • No Processing
  • No Energy
  • No Comfort…

Ok… you get the picture!  It’s important!

Another thing that is important is that we look at the system and make it more welcoming to women in these fields.  How do we make the jobs more attractive?  Yes, we pay them well… but is that all there is?  How could make these job more inviting and desirable as a career path?

Christen_Wood quote

Christen talks about the value of the Operations Challenge at building individuals and developing their skills.  Not just water skills, but the ability to work better as a team and grow into management in their careers.  This is a big deal in the world of operators.  From what I heard in this interview and in my conversations, there is an element of ‘earning your spot’… Let’s make that path clear and available to ALL that want it.

Diversity is the key to building our future workforce at its best.  We are focused on training women to be better communicators and leaders so they can share the ideas that are essential to the growth of this industry – now let’s make room for them to lead.

Listen to Christen Wood‘s story and you will probably see the first step to that growth!

I’d love to hear your feedback on these Empowering Women podcasts! What ‘takeaways’ have you gained from listening?

What would you like to hear moving forward?

How can this podcast Empower YOU?

On to your next episode…