By nature I’m an optimist so hope is something that I have in spades, but there have definitely been times when that has been challenged by life circumstances — when I was young and homeless, or when my mother passed away before my wedding, or losing colleagues on 9/11 — all of those moments seemed dark and impassible. But I came through each of those experiences with the passage of time, good friends, and a yes, a good therapist. I remind people every day that it’s natural to feel anxious at this very moment in our history. Frankly, if someone tells you they’re fine, they’re likely not being truthful with you or with themselves. Creating a safe environment for people just to sit with those feelings is really powerful because it allows them to strip the shame away from feeling vulnerable.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lydia Loizides.
Lydia Loizides is the Founder of Talentedly, an online one-on-one professional coaching platform that empowers people to live their best work lives. Since 2014, Talentedly has helped thousands of people at leading organizations such as Google, Goldman Sachs, General Assembly, Twitter, and Uber get confident about their skills and reimagine what is professionally possible. Lydia is also the Creator of Hello WorkWell, a modern worklife resource dedicated to providing curated recommendations and expert advice for working well to over 20,000 readers weekly. Lydia has published hundreds of opinion pieces and research articles and is a Forbes Coaches Council Member, a Council Member at NationSwell, and Advisor at Astia and the NYC Department of Education, Office of Post Secondary Readiness.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
People I know refer to me as a serial entrepreneur, not in the classic sense of starting multiple businesses on my own but always embodying the entrepreneurial spirit. As a teen, I worked for my mom in the hair salons she worked at, cleaning and sweeping and washing hair. It was good tip money for a high-schooler, but the real money was in taking the opportunity to help with babysitting, house sitting, personal assistant duties, party planning, and the like, for my mom’s clients. In college, I waited tables and bartended because the money was good, and the hours were short. The restaurant’s accountant was in one day, and I overheard him talking about new accounting software that he needed to get all his clients to start using and how he didn’t have the patience to sit and teach. I had no idea about accounting software (or accounting for that matter), but I remember saying to him, “If you teach me, I’ll write a handbook for you and teach all your clients.” The next thing I knew, I was a 21-year-old with a consulting business working from 12 am to 4 am five days a week with the accountant’s other clients who happened to be game house owners. It was crazy. I landed my first fulltime job after college in a start-up, again, because I was in the right place at the right time and had the wherewithal to offer the skills I had. I was employee number eight, and I loved it — the chaos, the uncertainty, the pace, and the ability to do anything to get the job done. Since then, I have been employee number three through fifty, been part of an IPO, a couple of acquisitions, and a joint venture.Today, I am employee number one at Talentedly and it’s exactly where I should, and want, to be.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
When I started Talentedly, the idea was to create an online community and platform where women who were early-to-mid stage in their careers could find high-quality resources to help them build a career plan and career-long strategic skills. I had worked on the business plan, crafted the pitch, gathered beta testers, found people that were excited about the idea, and believed in it enough to make some amazing introductions to investors. So, I packed my bags, got on a plane, and headed to the Silicon Valley and San Fransisco for a week’s worth of marathon meetings. A couple of days before I left NYC, Sheryl Sandberg announced Lean In. I thought great, now there’s a spotlight on the opportunity and some money and momentum in the marketplace! I ended up spending the entire week answering questions about Lean In — explaining it, defending it, and all the while, trying to bring the conversation back to Talentedly. At the time, I was very disappointed and extremely frustrated, but ultimately, that experience is what helped me to clarify what the product was and wasn’t, that I didn’t want outside investors, and that I should never hang on to an idea or position so tightly that I am not able to absorb changes, challenges, and catastrophes that are simply beyond my control. Those investors I met with never invested, but they are still part of my network, and even though the original idea of the Talentedly has changed (a lot), I still get referrals from these people seven years later.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am working on several projects that I am very excited about! On a personal level, I’ve been chipping away at a Master’s degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology at Harvard Extension College. I had no idea that Harvard had this option, but the college has been around since 1910. What I love about the experience is it’s all online, the professors are top-caliber, and I meet other adult learners from around the world with every class I take. Professionally, I’m working on a book about the future of work, looking at the intersection of education, automation, and artificial intelligence and machine learning and the impact that these forces will have on the current and next generation of workers. Hello Workwell is a weekly email that I’ve been putting together for friends and clients for a couple years. Today, there are over 20k subscribers, and the team and I are working on how to create a stronger, curated community focused on how to work well — body, mind, and soul. I especially want to focus on how Hello Workwell can be helpful to the hundreds of thousands of people who have been professionally impacted by the pandemic. We know that as a result of COVID, women, and especially women of color, young adults and older adults have been particularly impacted. With everything that is happening right now, I feel a calling to serve by creating high-quality, high-touch, and highly-accessible products and services for the every-day worker.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. 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?
My husband has always been my career confidant, and without his support, I would not be where I am today. And I’m not saying this as part of an Oscar speech where you would expect someone to thank their spouse. Over the course of twenty-plus years of marriage, I’ve learned that a good life partner is key to your career success. Early in our marriage, I was offered a job across the country and two time zones away. It was never a question of should I take it, it was a question of when should he relocate. We agreed that I would take the job and he would wait three months before quitting his job and joining me, that way we would both be sure about relocating. When I had our first child, my husband and I shared the responsibility of being new parents and the work that came with that. He took days off, and I took days off, he took feedings and diaper changes and doctors’ appointments and helped coordinate childcare. He picked up the slack when I needed to take on new responsibilities at work because it was essential to my career progression and I did the same when he needed me. We’ve been equal partners in raising and providing for our family. I’ve always been honest with myself as well — I love to work. Working brings me joy, purpose, and fulfillment. As a new mom, I struggled with that need, that desire to work, and the judgment that came with it later on. But as I came to be open and honest about it, I became a better leader, a better mother, and a better partner. Right before I started Talentedly, I was offered a high-status and lucrative position with a management consulting firm. It was an incredible opportunity, and I turned it down for various reasons. My husband never once, doubted the choice I made or the status or salary I walked away from.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?
Keeping my tendency to “do-it-all” in check. I’m a doer; I’ve always been a doer and a problem solver. I was raised by my mom, an immigrant with a fourth-grade education, and my childhood was filled with adversity. My mom was a doer and a problem-solver because she didn’t have a choice, and she didn’t have a support network. I have that network and resources, so I have to stop myself sometimes and remind myself that I can’t really “fix” the impact the pandemic is having on our family. I can only make the best of what I have been given and that I do not have to do it alone.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I have re-defined the measures of success and failure. Look, at the end of the day, I can’t change the decision to push school online or have people work from home for their safety. But here’s what I can do — I can sit down with my husband and go through our calendar and schedule work responsibilities and family duties so that we each have the time and space we need to work and parent. I can lay clear ground rules for my kids about the school day, what they can do, and what they can’t. I can restructure my work hours, shorten meeting times, ask for agendas, and tell people to be prepared for last-minute changes. I will not be embarrassed when my kids interpret me, or the dog jumps up onto my desk during a Zoom sales call or our internet connection fails. By focusing on building a real sense of adaptability and accepting there is no “normal,” these day-to-day challenges don’t seem so challenging anymore.
Can you share the biggest work-related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?
Access to capital. Right now, capital is tight, and the pandemic has impacted women, and women of color, disproportionately. I know capital is a problem for most small businesses but what makes this extraordinarily challenging for women is the tendency for lenders and investors to hold women-led businesses to a higher standard of performance that are gender-skewed. The research data is very clear about this phenomenon. Coupled with the legacy of under-funding in women-led startups and businesses, COVID has had a devastating impact on many women-led businesses that will take a generation to overcome.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
We’ve tightened the operational belt, started managing revenue against new growth assumptions and reviewed our core KPIs, including profitability. I’ve gotten extremely creative about partnerships and collaborations to reach new customers and refocused sales efforts on our consumer coaching memership, which was our first go-to-market product. From 2014 through 2017, Talentedly was known as the “gym membership” for your career. Your monthly membership included one-on-one sessions with a certified professional career coach, access to exclusive content, a custom career plan, and monthly webinars. We’ve always been virtual — all of our coaching and events remain online — so we haven’t had to grapple with technology upgrades or office relocation during COVID. Anyway, as we gained a following, HR departments found us because their employees were coming directly to us and then recommending us to colleagues and using us for coaching their teams. By 2019, eighty-five percent of our revenue was from companies that were hiring us to coach tens to hundreds of their employees. Given where we are with COVID, and the uncertainty in the market for the next six to twelve months, Talentedly is now fifty-fifty B2C and B2B.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
Develop a weekly plan, with your partner, and stick to it as best as you can. School, your meetings, groceries, fun time, obligations, etc., put it on the calendar. I’ve not only shifted my work hours, but I’ve created open blocks of time on my calendar for meetings during the times my youngest needs to be online for class. That way, we have breaks at the same time and work at the same time. And if you’re putting yourself second to your partner’s or children’s needs, stop. Everyone in the family needs to participate in creating a functional work-and-school-from-home environment, and that includes the children as well. I think we underestimate the capacity of our children to learn and grow in the face of adversity. And get creative — a colleague I know has made the dining room table the quiet workplace for everyone (headphones are fine) and then allocated the kid’s room and her bedroom as the “phone booth” rooms. If anyone needs to have a meeting, or be in a virtual classroom, they use one of those rooms. She also has a bar stool in the kitchen so that she can work on the counter for a change of pace. It’s not perfect, it’s not her office, and it’s not school, but she has a plan, and she’s executing based on the resources she has, not focus on what she doesn’t have. It takes a lot of grit, to be sure, but it works for her.
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?
Get some alone time. I know that may sound counterintuitive, but when I say alone time, I mean be by one’s self. No interruptions. If you have a house where everyone is working, schooling, and living, you’ll be on top of each other no matter how many square feet your home is. At my house, we are allowed to declare alone time, co-opt a bedroom for an hour to read, watch a show, nap or do whatever we want. You’re guaranteed not to be interrupted and be left totally alone. I’m also extremely fortunate to have a dog so walking her four times a day has been very helpful because it gets me out of the apartment. I’ve also upped my meditation to two sessions a day, usually morning and night. All of these things combined have helped to keep me grounded.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
By nature I’m an optimist so hope is something that I have in spades, but there have definitely been times when that has been challenged by life circumstances — when I was young and homeless, or when my mother passed away before my wedding, or losing colleagues on 9/11 — all of those moments seemed dark and impassible. But I came through each of those experiences with the passage of time, good friends, and a yes, a good therapist. I remind people every day that it’s natural to feel anxious at this very moment in our history. Frankly, if someone tells you they’re fine, they’re likely not being truthful with you or with themselves. Creating a safe environment for people just to sit with those feelings is really powerful because it allows them to strip the shame away from feeling vulnerable. Ultimately, I am hopeful because I know that COVID will eventually come under control and that while I may have been negatively impacted on a financial level, our family is healthy and safe. At the end of the day, that is all that matters.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
First, it’s important to understand that feeling anxious can’t really be fully controlled; it’s a response to stimuli. And right, there’s a lot that is stimulating us — a never-ending news cycle, the relentlessness of social media, and a general feeling of uncertainty in our day to day lives. Here’s what I try and do with my family and friends: first, just listen, don’t try and solve. Sometimes the most valuable thing you have to offer is your silence and a good hug. Second, turn off computers and phones. Read a book, play a game, cook together, walk together, play music, watch a movie together. Distract yourself with the company of your family in activities where you can’t get sucked into the negativity cycle. And finally, ask for professional help. Many states have set up free mental health services, and many insurance providers have also added programs and access — please, use them for yourself and your loved ones.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts. — Marcus Aurelius
I have been reading the Stoic philosphers over the last year and this particular quote from Marcus Aurelius is something that resonates with me because of it’s simplicity and relevance. Today, we know so much about the power that our thoughts have on our mind and body. I’m finally realizing that I’ve always had exactly what I needed to be content in my career and in my life.
How can our readers follow you online?
@lydialoizides on Instagram Twitter LinkedIn
@Talentedly on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn
@Helloworkwell on Instagram, Pinterest
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!