There will be heavy days. My most critical stakeholders, the women and girls of New Hope Girls, are not within arm’s reach. At times, it feels hard to have such physical distance between us, especially when I learn of the specific challenges they are experiencing on their healing journeys.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Caitlyn Scaggs.
Caitlyn has gone from being a police officer to an executive with an international organization that is fighting human trafficking, exploitation, and cycles of abuse. Along the way, she established a marketing agency and scaled it to the point of acquisition. She is marked by energy and enthusiasm for her work and making a lasting impact for good.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was born and raised in Southwest Virginia within a University community. It afforded me the opportunity to enjoy the small-town way of living while also having access to education and opportunity. My childhood was very idyllic with committed parents who are still married to this day. My three siblings are also some of my best friends and my happiest childhood memories involve them. All my extended family lives in New England and as a result, my summers were spent on the coast of Maine exploring nature and enjoying a simple way of living. Family has always been so important to me and continues to be, to this day.
My dad is a Ph.D. chemist and taught me to always be curious and explore the world around me. My mom modeled the reality of reinventing oneself and went from nursing to quality assurance work and ultimately served as the CEO of my family’s analytical chemistry business. They are both smart, wise, and incredible people.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“It doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.” That quote has helped me extend myself and others grace as I have evolved as a professional and person. It is so easy to get trapped in the pursuit of perfection and miss out on joy and possibilities in the process. Choosing to focus on all that is good keeps me moving and growing.
I also believe that waiting for perfection causes us to miss out on exciting opportunities because we are not willing to take a leap of faith; perfectionism is paralyzing. My professional life has been marked by a variety of “leap of faith” moments and I feel certain my willingness to embrace “wonderful” over “perfection” fueled those moments.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Curiosity: Being a perpetual student with a teachable spirit has undoubtedly contributed to my success. I am willing to humble myself, ask, and then learn. In addition to my reinvention from law enforcement to marketing, I have also moved between industries in a way that represents stark contrast. I have worked within the polymer/plastics industry, higher education, and my marketing agency covered a wide base of industries and organizations. Now, I’m working within international non-profit work. Staying curious along the way has helped me learn the vocabulary, best practices, and nuances of each industry while applying my experiences, gifts and talents in that new context.
- Courage: Pursuing greatness can be intimidating. Often, we ask ourselves questions like, “why me?” and must be brave enough to flip the question and ask, “why not me?” I choose to be brave with my career and my life because I believe I am called to leave a positive impact. An example of this is evident in my most recent career move. I left a job within Higher Education to work for a small but mighty non-profit, New Hope Girls. Some would see this as a risky move — I had a top leadership position within the University. However, I felt like I was being called to choose courage and I am confident that fighting for the vulnerable will always be worth the risk.
- Drive: My nickname with my colleagues and family is “tornado” because when I feel certain about what I want to achieve, I move forward with force and focus. Especially when it is something that has a heart-level attachment, like my work with New Hope Girls. I find that my passion fuels me and each milestone of achievement propels me to keep pushing even harder.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
My first career was in law enforcement as a patrol officer. This was the culmination of a big dream I developed in high school. I felt so much anger about the injustices I was witnessing in the world, especially as it relates to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, and wanted to be on the front lines of fighting back. I also aspired to one day serve in a federal role, after working for a local department. This dream had all the components necessary to come to fruition.
In college, I studied criminal justice and earned a 4.0 gpa and interned with a prestigious unit of the FBI. Immediately after graduation, I had multiple job offers with local police departments and was able to choose where I wanted to serve. It was all progressing in such a wonderfully linear and expected way until I experienced a major heart shift; we were expecting our first child and I found myself craving a different type of a career. I wanted a professional role that was still dynamic and exciting but that also provided a structure that allowed me to be present for our growing family. Truth be told, that was only one of a couple “reinventions” I have enjoyed over my career.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
Immediately following law enforcement, I worked in marketing and communications. As my success grew, I inadvertently became an entrepreneur and started my own marketing agency. The agency grew in a sustained and rapid manner over 18-months and was then acquired by a design agency. After that, I served as an Associate Vice President with a mid-sized public University. And now, I am executive manager for an international non-profit, New Hope Girls, that is fighting exploitation, trafficking, and cycles of abuse. Each change has built on the success and experience I have accumulated along the way; it has been a beautiful and fulfilling career journey!
In my second chapter, immediately after leaving law enforcement, I harnessed the strengths I developed as a police officer and applied them to marketing, communications, and public relations. As an officer, I was forced to be comfortable in crisis scenarios. It was critical that I could empathize with others and consider their wants and needs. I also had to be excellent at articulating verbally and in writing. In my second chapter I made sure to align with mentors who could guide me in any technical aspects of my new role that I lacked education or background in. I see myself as a perpetual student so I was very comfortable learning the “hard skills” as I went and took comfort in the reality that I had a valuable skill set that can’t be taught from an external source. By that, I am referring to my work ethic, heart for people, curiosity, persistence, and courage.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
It was the seismic heart-shift I experienced when our daughter was on the way. I know with certainty that the shift was not from a place of external pressure but a place of prioritized love for our family. It didn’t feel like I was sacrificing myself or my dreams for anyone, it felt like a beautiful and necessary evolution of my dreams. I have zero regrets and remain amazed about how beautiful my journey has been, since taking that leap of faith and reinventing my professional self. Each new opportunity is me stepping forward with confidence and belief that my career is meant to be enjoyed and explored.
That’s not to say it is easy to make a major career transition. I can look back now and see how all the pieces were falling into place, but it is also normal to wonder if it will all really work out in the end. I had moments of fear and doubt. My biggest fear was that the passion and calling I felt toward law enforcement could never be matched in another career path. Wow, I was wrong! I have found, time and time again, it works out better than I could have ever imagined when I am willing to take that leap of faith.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
Letting go of feeling inadequate was the gateway to my success. I initially entered marketing and communications with tremendous insecurities. I felt like a fraud because my degree was in criminal justice, not marketing, communications or business. I was so insecure I omitted my degree and experience as a police officer from my LinkedIn page. I was erroneously convinced that if people really knew my background they would question my credibility and overlook me. Little did I know, it was my unexpected background and that made me memorable, a conversation piece, and highly effective. Because I was a novice, I approached everything with fresh eyes, curiosity, and a whole lot of questions.
My intuition-driven approach to marketing and business let me lean into the basics that have to be present for success. Being a good listener, prioritizing relationships, staying up-to-date on best practices, pulling in expertise where you may be weak or lacking. I had no “bad” behaviors to retrain or refocus because I was a blank slate of possibilities within the marketing, communication, and business world. And that is a beautiful thing.
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
Things are going amazing! This career journey has been more fulfilling and fun than I could have ever expected.I am certainly proud of some of the landmark moments in my career that are easy to point to — selling my marketing agency, serving as an Associate Vice President at my alma mater, and advancing a variety of times through an industry I never anticipated working within. However, positively impacting others and having the opportunity to empower others has been the most rewarding part of my career change. Just last week, I heard from a college classmate who has been watching my career journey unfold over LinkedIn. She shared that she has felt a calling but is not sure how to pursue it. Watching my career unfold and evolve has helped her better imagine how she can also pursue impact within hers. We have plans to grab coffee in the weeks to come so I can help her unpack all that is swirling. I had no idea she was watching or gaining from my journey — I have just been showing up and being true to myself.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Great question. There was a very poignant moment in which my dear friend and mentor Dr. Gary Schirr challenged me on my insecurities. It was the first time we met, and I knew he was a highly awarded and revered professor of business with expertise in social media marketing. I had just been recognized at a local LinkedIn Live event for managing the best local corporate page. He approached me and asked me to speak at his class because of my celebrated expertise. In that moment, I felt like I had to level with him about who I was and wasn’t. I leaned in and all but whispered the truth — my degree was in criminal justice and I used to be a cop. He legitimately could not have cared less. He said something brief like, “well that’s cool! Make sure you put that on your LinkedIn page. People will find that really interesting.” And then we settled on a date so that I could come guest-lecture for his class. Guess what? Eight years later I have faithfully guest lectured for Professor Schirr every semester. He gave me the moment of clarity I so desperately needed as I reinvented myself.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
Yes! I’ll share a story that still gives me goosebumps to this day. Before I worked for New Hope Girls as a staff member, I was a volunteer. A year into my work with the organization, I traveled to the Dominican Republic to document the stories of the women and the girls. It was a beautiful and powerful experience, often laced with tears. As I sat and talked to one of their warriors, Wanda, and processed the power of what she was sharing, I was left with a question. I asked, “How can I help?” I felt called, invited, and beckoned into their work but not sure of my role. Wanda’s answer was simple: Be our voice.
At that moment it gave me chills. I knew something significant happened as she spoke those three words. Now, it is three years later and I serve as Executive Manager and am responsible for representing New Hope Girls stateside. The job I have did not exist when Wanda urged me to be their voice. Three years later, I have stepped into her words and wear them daily.
This story is interesting to me because we often don’t see the beautiful story that is being knit before our very eyes. We can’t. But we should consistently trust that if we are faithful each day, with the opportunities we are presented with, the story will grow in beauty and impact.
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
Absolutely! With each career move and job change I have doubted not only my decisions but my ability to succeed in each new role. However, over time I have gotten better at shutting that meanness down. I work really hard to have a thought life that is fair and kind to myself.
A very specific way I intentionally work through this is by incorporating journaling into my routine. As I jot down thoughts, feelings, challenges, and successes I am creating a written record of the details as they unfold. They help me look back and realize that I have a history of overcoming challenges, rising, and succeeding. My journal entries also remind me that I can do hard things and have a lot of experiences, gifts, and talents to share with the world.
In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
My first job after exiting Law Enforcement was with a high-tech analytical chemistry lab with specialty in the analysis of polymers used within medical applications. I was responsible for the marketing and communications efforts at the company. Prior to my start date, I read a series of books and watched various YouTube videos to help acquire a foundation for both the marketing side of the business and the science aspect of the business. Once in my role, I worked with a mentor who was a subcontracted branding expert previously used by the company. She helped with their re-brand and therefore understood the company and their marketing efforts intimately. We worked arm-in-arm for the first couple months and then she gradually provided less and less support. I will forever be thankful for how Dee and the company were willing to pour into me and help me grow.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
I forced myself out of my comfort zone by giving a TEDx talk about my career change and how others could “Fearlessly Face Change.” It felt important to share about how reinventing myself led to more beauty and impact than I could have ever experienced had I opted to forgo change and play it safe. While I love public speaking this structured and measured talk was more formal and structured than what I was used to at the time. The very act of delivering the talk forced me to grow and evolve, while the stories and ideas I shared helped me own the significance of my journey. As we step out of our comfort zones it is so important to invite others into the challenges, messes, victories, and discoveries. In doing so, it gives them courage to do the same.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1. The social entrepreneurship community is incredible. The first work-event I attended after accepting my new leadership role was a grand opening of a new concept store, established by Vera Bradley. The store, goodMRKT, is a brick and mortar in which every brand is purpose-driven, or cause-based and New Hope Girls is a featured brand. It was surreal to be at such a significant event, surrounded by other leaders who are using business for good. I felt energized by their passion and purposes and was inspired by how they are leading their organizations. The other leaders were so authentic in our conversations and generous with advice and support. I love being in a community where there is space for everyone to rise and succeed — true collaboration over competition.
2. There will be heavy days. My most critical stakeholders, the women and girls of New Hope Girls, are not within arm’s reach. At times, it feels hard to have such physical distance between us, especially when I learn of the specific challenges they are experiencing on their healing journeys. The other day our girls shared prayer requests and my heart ached for the battles they are facing and the heaviness they feel. Being state-side, I can’t easily show up to hug, hold hands, and support in person. In these moments I have to remember the importance of my role in the organization and how I am using business to break cycles of exploitation.
3. Simply show up. Taking on a new leadership role with an international organization can feel intimidating, even to the most seasoned and confident leader. However, I am reminded over and over again that showing up is such a large part of the journey to success. I don’t need to have all the answers, but I do need to be all-in and fully present with the work I do and people I serve. Simply showing up will leave an impact.
4. If someone wants to give, find a way to let them. Our Executive Director, Joy Reyes, has been great to coach me in my understanding of working with donors in the non-profit context. Early on, she helped me realize if someone asks to contribute to our work, we need to find a way to let them — even if it takes getting creative. This recently turned out amazing when a former employee of mine texted and asked if there was anything he could do to support New Hope Girls. He is a photographer, so I immediately asked for support with lifestyle photos including our newest product release. What began as that one simple text message exchange resulted in a photoshoot with two photographers, twelve models, and four assistants. The photographs are stunning and now used on our website and across social media channels. This all happened because when one of my colleagues was feeling generous, I knew to find a way to help him give.
5. This is a create-your-own adventure. Serving in a social entrepreneurship role is a create-your-own adventure career. I love how agile and flexible my workdays are and that our organization is aligned around strategy but also has space for spontaneity. It leaves me feeling like adventure and opportunity is around every corner. There is freedom and fun in this reality and also a serious responsibility to be a good steward with that which has been entrusted to me!
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?
The #CreatedForMore movement! It is the tagline of New Hope Girls and rooted in the belief that every woman and girl is created for more. I do think if we opened it up even bigger, it speaks to how all people are made to be honored, valued, supported, encouraged, and respected. If we could see each other through this shared lens of humanity the amount of good that we could accomplish would be globally significant.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂
This is such a fun question! Hands down Tim Tebow. It has nothing to do with his athleticism and everything to do with how he is using his platform for purpose. He has such a strong anti-trafficking stance and is bringing awareness and action to this issue that plagues every corner of our globe. I admire that he and his wife, Demi, are using their success to make this world a better place. It would be so fun to chat with him about faith, our shared fight, and all the things in-between. So please do tag him and let’s make it happen!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I have a blog that I update weekly which is a way for me to share my writing, which is my favorite way to create! The name of my blog is “Boldly Pursue” and it is designed to be a source of encouragement for other women — especially those who are juggling busy careers with family demands. I also hope that everyone will follow New Hope Girls and the impact we are making. Our fight is a big one and takes a committed and broad-base of support to yield a maximum impact.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!