“As a parent, the lives of your children revolve around us.” With Dr. Ely Weinschneider & Sarah Dorsett

As a parent, the lives of your children revolve around us. For me, spending time with them isn’t optional. They look up to me and learn from me. They use me to inform and structure their behaviors. The people they spend time with will help them frame their view of the world. That’s a responsibility […]

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As a parent, the lives of your children revolve around us. For me, spending time with them isn’t optional. They look up to me and learn from me. They use me to inform and structure their behaviors. The people they spend time with will help them frame their view of the world. That’s a responsibility I take very seriously.

As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Sarah Dorsett, CEO of Nanit.

Sarah Dorsett is CEO of Nanit, a high-growth technology start-up improving the sleep and lives of babies and parents. An ecommerce leader with more than two decades of experience scaling retail businesses, Dorsett previously served as Vice President of Ecommerce at Bed Bath & Beyond, where her site merchandising and marketing strategy drove double-digit retail revenue growth. From spearheading e-marketing initiatives in the burgeoning digital industry at Coty in 2004, to her executive roles at Bloomingdales.com and Century 21 Department Stores, Dorsett has developed a highly effective approach to channel strategies that’s reflected in Nanit’s leadership in the competitive baby tech category. While CEO of Nanit, the company has been named to CNBC’s Upstart 100 list of most promising startups, Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies, and most recently received NPD’s Consumer Electronic Industry Performance Award for the top increase in North American market share in the smart baby monitor category. Aside from her corporate responsibilities, Sarah loves art, dancing, spending time with friends and family, and lives with her husband and three children in Summit, New Jersey.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

Igrew up in a very small town in Michigan. I’d say I had a pretty normal childhood. I have a sister, who’s my best friend, and my family is very close. Both parents were teachers, but my father eventually became a computer programmer, which is where I picked up my interest in technology. I played sports and always took dance classes but for as long as I can remember I wanted to be an artist. If I wasn’t drawing something as a kid, I’d have my head buried in a book. As I grew up, I learned the best place for art was New York City, so I set my sights on getting there and moved immediately after graduating college. My first attempt to move there after college was a miserable failure because I hadn’t done my homework on how expensive it was to live in the city and I didn’t have any family or close friends there, so I had to pack up and move back home to Michigan. I hung posters of New York all over my apartment and was determined to make my way back. My second attempt worked out and I’ve been building a career in NYC ever since, but it obviously had twists and turns and I didn’t land in the art world.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

I spent the first 10 years of my career working in the beauty industry for companies like Coty Beauty. The last 12 years, I’ve built and scaled Ecommerce businesses, starting with Bloomingdales.com and more recently Buy Buy Baby and Bed Bath and Beyond. I loved the building phase of those businesses and at that time, ecommerce was a very fun place to be if you were working for established retailers because you could interact with everyone across the company. I decided to join Nanit in February 2019. It was the perfect fit in terms of the stage of the company and the technology aspect which I had always had a passion for. Most of all though, I’m now a mom and I loved the mission of the company- to help parents and babies develop and be happier and healthier. Once I learned more, I knew this wasn’t just a baby monitor, this was a company that could change the world because the technology could do what I thought was impossible.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

Every single day seems like it’s completely different from the next. Some days I’m very hands-on working with different teams to develop business driving strategies or collaborating on new products. There might be weeks when I’m in Israel working with the development teams in our offices there and some days, I’m meeting investors, networking with other start-up executives or seeking advice on a business problem from our current board of directors. One of the things I wish I could do more of, would be events and trade shows. I love talking to parents about how they use Nanit and ways that we can make it an even bigger part of their lives.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

I have three children, ages 8, 6 and 3 and I’ve definitely noticed that if I can’t give them my ‘normal’ level of attention then I start to see signs of stress in their behavior. They are more sensitive or just generally ‘off’. As a mom, I’m always worried that I’ve missed a milestone or a developmental opportunity but fortunately I’ve learned to recognize when their behavior changes so I can adjust mine and give them more quality time.

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?

As a parent, the lives of your children revolve around us. For me, spending time with them isn’t optional. They look up to me and learn from me. They use me to inform and structure their behaviors. The people they spend time with will help them frame their view of the world. That’s a responsibility I take very seriously.

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

I love the small things. My oldest son loves sports and art, so he asks me to draw or do projects with him. He can read now and absorbs everything he hears so when he knows I’m travelling he’ll try to choose books from his library at school about a recent place I’ve been so we can read and talk about them together. My middle son loves Legos and building with him is one of the ways we connect. He also likes to spend time alone with either myself or my husband so he can have all of the attention. I always think this is because he’s the middle child. My baby, Kensington, loves bedtime so she asks to go to bed earlier than everyone else. She quickly figured out that that was her special ‘mommy’ time. She also tags along with me whenever she can whether it’s an errand or an appointment.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention? Please include examples or stories for each, if you can.

First, put down the cell phone. An hour away from it is not unreasonable. Be transparent with friends, family and work colleagues so they know that it’s important for you to carve out time with your children. Try to stick to a routine. I’ve found this to be incredibly important. Your children will get used to it and feel more secure. One that I don’t do well but am working on, is scheduling in advance. Block your calendar when you need an hour in the morning for a school function. Take advantage of any time, even if it’s 5 minutes, to show your kids you love them. I read somewhere that humans need 12 physical interactions per day for them to grow emotionally. My kids think this is great, so they’ll count out 12 quick hugs and then say, “My heart just grew mom”!

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

I actually think this can’t be defined because parenting is constant learning. I think it’s the results that count. All I want for my children is that they feel loved and happy. That result will make me feel like a good parent. I was recently in a checkout line with my daughter. She was in the shopping cart and there were children’s books lining the checkout line. We read as many as we could, and I noticed the woman in front of us kept turning around. She finally said to me, “can I just say, I never see moms doing what you’re doing with your daughter. It’s beautiful to watch you engaging with her. I always see kids on cell phones or iPads.” I was so touched since I hadn’t given a thought to what I was doing, and I loved sharing that moment with my daughter.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

We just never focus on what they can’t do. We tell our kids that they’re capable of anything and we don’t ever limit their thinking. My oldest and youngest are very curious and determined. They stick with something until they figure it out and they almost always succeed. They truly inspire me. My middle son just quietly conquers all. He doesn’t show off that he knows as much as he does but he puts his entire being into everything. We just support, and love who they are. I self-assess often and think that what I’m learning in the working world is going to help me give advice to my children when they’re looking for jobs or choosing their careers.

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

Success from a career perspective is often measured by the health of the team and the company. I think success in the home can often be thought of as the health and happiness of the family. I seem to find myself thinking about success at the more difficult times when teams and families have to pull together and manage through emotional or complex situations. To be very honest, today, I personally measure success in the ways I just mentioned but when I reflect on how well we’re all doing it’s generally tied to if I feel like I’m actually devoting enough time to both career and family and how well I’m trying to manage both.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

I, like many others, fell in love with Mindset by Carol Dweck. I thought it was such a perfect validation of some very obvious and simple things that we should inherently know as parents but often forget when we’re so wrapped up in caring for our kids and making sure they have what they need. I’ll admit I don’t have a favorite parenting podcast, instead I have some local professional women’s groups that I’ve joined like Chief where the focus is about balance and avoiding burnout as a working mom. I’ve found meeting other moms and listening and learning from each other to be very inspiring as a parent.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It Is the courage to continue that counts.”

-Winston Churchill

From my first failed foray into NYC to recently being CEO of Nanit, there have been many highs and lows, clearly no lows as bad as Churchill who held the weight of his country and likely the free world on his shoulders. But, just as Churchill kept a calm composure, I try not to get too up or down with any success or roadblock, none are fatal. The key is to learn from success and failure, to have the “growth mindset” that Carol Dweck preaches.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’ve noticed, as my career has matured, and maybe even as times have changed and I myself have matured, that the art of active listening has become more and more valuable and less and less common. I’ve found that the more I notice those who are truly listening, the more I notice the ‘listeners’ are showing acts of kindness and support others, and, ultimately, making better choices. In today’s technology world, to engage with someone especially the younger generations is a rare phenomenon. Even during a conversation, many people are pausing for the other person to talk while thinking about the next thing to say. Being present and focused on the other person’s words and emotions is so important. I would love to inspire listening without judgement as my movement.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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