The “Lean In” Movement Was Phase One, Phase Two Needs To Be “Lean On”. With Addie Swartz CEO of reacHIRE

Phase Two is helping companies give women something tangible and strong to “Lean On” so that they can drive their success and dictate their futures

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We have to get more women satisfied and successful in their jobs. We need to see more women get promoted and have the same opportunities as men. We need to let the woman decide what she wants and what she can do. It should never be dictated, or worse — assumed — for her. The Lean In movement was Phase One. I believe Phase Two is helping companies give women something tangible and strong to “Lean On” so that they can drive their success and dictate their futures.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Addie Swartz in my series of profiles about strong female leaders. As founder and CEO of reacHIRE, Addie is passionate about changing the trajectory for women and work. Built around the core tenets of attracting, upskilling, placing and supporting professionals in corporate roles, her company reacHIRE works with corporations committed to a gender diverse workforce. reacHIRE connects these companies with women who are returning to work after a break, looking for a career change, or searching for a more challenging position. Addie has devoted her career to building mission-driven companies that empower women. She started her career at Bain & Co. and then built new businesses at Disney, Reebok and Lotus Development. Prior to starting reacHIRE, Addie founded two companies designed to empower women and girls in the ed tech space — BrightIdeas and Beacon Street Girls. Addie holds a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. She’s the proud mother of two young professional women.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory” ?

From as long as I can remember, I’ve looked at the world through entrepreneurial glasses. That’s how I’m wired. When I was 12 years old, I started an apple pie business to fund a class trip to Spain. I sold so many apple pies it took over our house and my father eventually asked me to shut it down. But I was hooked. Entrepreneurship offered me a powerful combination: mission-driven work AND control over my own fate.

The company I oversee today, reacHIRE took form after I experienced an unexpected career break following a serious car accident. Suddenly I found myself at home caring for my injured child. During that hiatus, I was surrounded by professional women who had taken a career break to raise their kids. So many of the women wanted to return to work but didn’t know how to get back into the corporate world.

There didn’t seem to be a concrete way for these women to re-engage in their careers that helped them update their technology skills, boost their confidence and provide a cohort of peers to lean on as they re-entered the corporate world. There was also no easy mechanism for companies to hire these experienced professional women who otherwise would never be on their radar. So, I created — reacHIRE. We’re going strong, working with companies like Fidelity, Deloitte and others and are getting ready to expand in exciting new directions.

Prior to reacHIRE, I created the Beacon Street Girls media brand that came out of a need I saw in my daughter and her friends who were “between toys and boys.” The idea was to create an adventure book series bundled with fun lifestyle merchandise and an interactive website designed to offer positive messages and healthy role models to girls 9–13. The 22-volume series provided original content and cool role models who could speak to girls in a healthy and positive way to navigate the twists and turns of adolescence. It attracted an active, vibrant community, having sold 1 ½ million books before the series was licensed by Simon & Schuster.

Years earlier when I was home on maternity leave with my first daughter, I created an educational tech software company called BrightIdeas. There were so many tech-savvy moms who were eager to find a way to use their skills without fully going back to the “corporate world.” I decided to tap into this amazing talent pool to demonstrate and sell educational software to schools, teachers and parents. As I suspected, they were rock stars! Four years later, BrightIdeas was bought by a division of Pearson Education. Little did I know then that the idea of “re-activating” professional women temporarily on the career sidelines would become the catalyst for where I am today with my third company.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you in your professional career?

Life and business are fraught with opportunities and obstacles, and it’s up to us to learn how to recognize, leverage and overcome them. When I graduated from college, the economy was in a tough place and jobs were scarce. I had a lot of positive informational interviews, but the answer seemed to always be the same — “we have no open positions.” One weekend I was reading The New York Times wedding section (a guilty pleasure!) and noticed that an employee at a company near me was relocating from the west coast to New York City following her wedding. I quickly sent off a letter and included a cut-out of the wedding announcement. I noted that it looked like there would be an opening at the company and that I’d love the opportunity to interview for that position. My “creative” approach and assertiveness impressed the right people and I was hired!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

reacHIRE is all about leveraging one’s potential, and it is our fantastic women who truly stand out. Our mission is to help companies find great talent they can’t find on their own. We help companies look beyond the job description to recognize the potential of an employee. So many companies hire to fit a role. We think that’s an enormous mistake. reacHIRE candidates are agile, able to take on new challenges, and continuously learn and advance to management roles. They are the superstars who can quickly come off the sidelines and move the ball. They just need to be given the opportunity and the environment to thrive. 
 We recently helped a woman get back to work after a 16 year career break. She re-entered the workforce, got promoted and was one of three individuals nationwide to win a prestigious award — all in the space of one year. Her story is one of many that show how reacHIRE helps companies attract and retain alternative talent that delivers significant impact to an organization. We refresh and fortify skills that need updating, and once our women are placed at top companies, reacHIRE continues to support them so they thrive, lead and stay within their organizations.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?

We are deeply committed to fixing the gender pipeline in companies across the country, and that means not only replenishing the pipeline with great women who have taken a career pause but to also help women early in their careers grow and thrive. Corporate America is losing far too many women at middle management levels because of lack of opportunity, lack of advancement, difficult environments and inflexible work arrangements. We are deeply committed to expanding the pipeline so that more talented women enter, are challenged, are valued, and promoted as they build their careers. We’re always looking for ways to enhance the way we help women succeed at all stages of their careers. Stay tuned!

What advice would you give other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

We are passionate about the work we do because we are changing lives every day. Our employees see their impact through the success of the women and businesses we serve. We also take our own advice and don’t hire to fit a job description. We hire the best talent for what we need to accomplish — which can mean a blend of full-time, part-time and remote workers. We give employees the flexibility to work from home one day a week and have remote workers that live across the country. reacHIRE provides weekly lunches, spontaneous celebratory road trips to get ice cream, cupcakes on everyone’s birthdays and a summer team excursion every year. My advice to other CEOs and founders is to look for talent that truly shares the mission of your company and give them every possible opportunity to put their passion toward a purpose.

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 friend and advisor Sharon Weinbar has been instrumental to the success of reacHIRE. We were colleagues at our first jobs at Bain & Co. She’s been a hugely successful CEO and venture capitalist in Silicon Valley. Sharon and I talk on a weekly basis about the needs of the business, current opportunities, challenges, and growth strategy. When women support and mentor one another, it is incredibly powerful. I am eternally grateful for her time, energy and support.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I believe strong, happy, confident women bring goodness to the world. The companies I’ve founded have helped women — from young girls, to professional women to mothers — recognize their true potential and put it to use in meaningful ways that best leverage their talents and best serve their communities and institutions. I have devoted my career to building confidence and expanding opportunities for women.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why.

Not everyone is fit to work at a startup. You have to have the penchant, patience and flexibility that your day might change in an instant. Temperament, work style and personality all need to align to your professional environment. 
 Big company people like structure, process, and tried and true execution plans. Start-ups are fraught with uncertainty while blazing new pathways. They require the creative, nimble, strategic and practical skills necessary to thrive in an environment that is constantly evolving. There’s also no such thing as instant success. Innovation is often ahead of the market, and the market needs to ‘ripen up’ to the forward thinking solutions that a start-up is innovating around.

Opportunities are abundant, time is not. You have to give careful thought to how you spend your time. If you don’t keep prioritizing and re-prioritizing what’s most important, you’ll lose sight of what you need to do. You also need to learn when to say no. What’s critical one day may become a diversion the next. Staying focused is essential to continuing to evolve with — and get ahead of — the market.
 Celebrate success in the moment. There are so many ups and downs, that when there is an up, it’s really important to celebrate it. At reacHIRE, we mark both big and little wins to show forward momentum and look forward to the next achievement.

Uncover every rock. You never know when someone you randomly meet may introduce you to your next strategic partner or client. This has happened to me over and over again. Always be open-minded to doors opening at unexpected times and walking through them just a bit to see what opportunity might be connected to that introduction. 
 Thank your fellow journeymen and women. Entrepreneurs are always focused on “the next thing,” but it’s really important to stop and thank the people who are journeying with you. I believe that recognition is an important component to feeling valued. I always make a point to make a quick phone call or leave a voicemail expressing gratitude for a job well done, send a “you rocked this!” text, or give a gift card for extraordinary work which goes beyond expectations.

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. 🙂

We have to get more women satisfied and successful in their jobs. We need to see more women get promoted and have the same opportunities as men. We need to let the woman decide what she wants and what she can do. It should never be dictated, or worse — assumed — for her. The Lean In movement was Phase One. I believe Phase Two is helping companies give women something tangible and strong to “Lean On” so that they can drive their success and dictate their futures.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

I had the privilege of hearing Sterling K Brown speak at the 2018 Stanford University commencement. He said: “Let your light shine. It is your birthright and your responsibility.” 
 We need to help more women get the opportunity to have their light shine within America’s great companies. That’s when we’ll have more innovation, more profitability, better corporate performance and more women represented at all management levels.

Some of the biggest 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 you are reading this, hello Richard Branson! You are truly one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time and someone who makes significant change happen across so many industries and disciplines. You are a creative thinker who is constantly innovating every space you touch. I would love to have just one meeting with you. I have a feeling one conversation could launch 1000 ships and I can only imagine where those ships could sail and the challenges they could conquer. So call me!!

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