Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?
I moved around a lot, which definitely helped me become adaptable and also means those “what regionalisms do you use” quizzes are very confusing for me! I was a bookworm kid and didn’t get in trouble in 6th grade for reading under the desk in math class when the teacher pulled out the book and saw that it was Jane Eyre … but she did ask me to put it away.
What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?
I majored in English Literature, which seemed at the time a great scam to get in on: they would give me a degree for reading books and writing what I think about them? Sign me up! I didn’t have a plan for where that would take me, so like many English majors I went into marketing. My first job was in the communications department of a Fortune 100 firm writing copy for brochures and newsletters.
Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?
I was the Marketing Director at Bridal Guide in 2001, when many magazines were still just launching their websites. We outsourced the building of our site, but then realized someone needed to sort of manage the thing. I was super curious about the possibilities in digital and volunteered. We turned the website from a “companion site for merchandising banner ads” into a highly engaged community destination that was a pioneer in sponsored content, paid social engagement, and online contests. People at the time thought I was crazy to switch career focus, but I think it was a pretty good career move.
I spent the next dozen years in various digital leadership roles focused on product development and strategy, and another critical moment was when I got a call from a recruiter asking if I would like to look at a job at Merriam-Webster. Remember, this is a bookworm kid so yes, yes I would like to work at Merriam-Webster! As Chief Digital Officer & Publisher I led a digital transformation that turned the brand from a “dusty book on the shelf” to a timely, relevant resource and commentary users turn to every day; worked with super smart, creative, wonderful people; and we won about 18 awards including eight Webby Awards. I learned something new every day from the lexicographers, and actually became less judgy about language as a result.
What is your current role and responsibilities?
I’m now Chief Growth Officer at Framework Homeownership, a social enterprise organization focused on building strong communities through the stabilizing force of homeownership. In other words, making the world a better place. We have a really stellar Homebuyer Education course which is a valuable resource to help correct the information asymmetry in the home buying market, and to give people the power and confidence to make good financial decisions around homeownership and advocate for themselves throughout the process. It has a 96% satisfaction rating but is the “best-kept secret” in home buying—obviously I aim to change that! And we have a new platform, Keep by Framework, focused on support for homeowners. The reality is that new homeowners express regret that they were unaware of the true costs of owning and maintaining their homes. Our goal is to provide the resources and support to get people into their home and help keep them there.
I’m responsible to identify areas for growth and innovation, and then create the strategic and executional ecosystems to make those happen. I’m still in my “first 90 days,” though, so more details to come.
Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally? Was it always your goal to be in this position?
My job didn’t exist when I was in high school—so it certainly wasn’t always my goal to be in this position. I have had a lot of luck in my career, and I definitely credit being curious and maintaining a learning mindset for helping me evolve and grow.
For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?
I’m a big believer in STEAM - science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. Being an English major is still relevant to my career, even though I’m a technology executive. For example, I think the skills I developed analyzing literature are what help me find stories in data that are relevant and actionable; I can communicate well and use storytelling to convey concepts; and if you read literature written across hundreds of years you learn that human psychology hasn’t changed. This is really important to remember when organizations get distracted by shiny new technology. The technology is just a tool, the people are who you connect with.
What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?
I am a real believer that the “product mindset” is so helpful for anything you are working on, not just literal product development. Who are we doing this for? Why are we doing it? What is the user journey? Where and how can we improve it? Where might things go wrong? How will this benefit our business? Who can we partner with? How can we amplify this? The ability to ask—and answer!—these questions, to play out the chess game and not just focus on immediate tactics, is really where you break through.
What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work? What’s the most challenging?
I love that it is a combination of creativity and analysis, and that it’s always changing.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment?
There are so many, since I’ve been lucky to work with amazing teams and do good work together. Sometimes it’s the big resume-level things, sometimes it’s the small wins, and it’s always about the relationships you build. But getting handed a Webby award by Will Shortz live on the Webby stage was a huge thrill.
Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?
I am incredibly indebted to the women of CEOX, an organization focused on getting more women into CEO, board, and other c-suite roles. I’m part of a smaller support cohort and my colleagues there just blow me away and provide incredible inspiration and guidance.
I volunteer and am on the Advisory Board for ACP an organization that matches U.S. military veterans transitioning into civilian life with professional mentors. (My husband is a combat veteran of the U.S. Army.)
I’m an executive advisor for the CPO Accelerator, a sort of “bootcamp” for upcoming CPOs (Chief Product Officers). It’s awesome because I get to share my experiences with people coming up in the product space, and also get to learn from my co-panelists at our seminars.
And I’m a speaker/mentor for the OU Impact Accelerator, an organization that identifies and incubates start-ups in the community non-profit sector.
What does homeownership mean to you?
The first thing that comes to mind is security, a place to just be. I became incredibly aware of the importance of this at the beginning of the pandemic lockdown, when I looked around and realized how lucky we were to have our safe space during this time. But homeownership isn’t secure for everyone, since so many people are one financial surprise away from really hard decisions about which payment to make. Having said that, it’s still one of the best routes to building generational wealth, and I think everyone should have the path to homeownership smoothed for them. That’s why I’m so happy to be part of the Framework mission.
When you hear "breaking glass ceilings " how does that impact your everyday life? How do you help break down such barriers?
I can’t count how many times I have been the only woman at the table, the only woman in the room. I have literally had vendors sit down and try to explain the interwebs to me before pitching their service, or ask me for the wi-fi password and then turn away. I am definitely aware that I have had to work harder, perform better, just to be considered. It can be really hard to persist, but you just do it. And then you reach a hand down and help the person behind you.
As a distinguished word nerd, we have to ask what is your favorite word?
My favorite word is ‘why.’ It’s not the word people expect me to say in terms of being impressive by way of being particularly obscure or mellifluous, but it’s amazing. ‘Why’ solves problems: why do you need that? Why is it important? Why does this thing bother you? It’s the best negotiation tool ever. Don’t underestimate the power of small words.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
As a working parent I don’t have a lot of that, but obviously I like to read, and I like to exercise—run, spin, weights, yoga. It’s the closest thing we have to a magic bullet for long-term health, and in the meantime I feel better and sleep better.
How do you manage stress?
I work out, I drink (reasonable amounts of) wine, I talk to my spouse and my friends. I bought a LOT of books during the pandemic, and justified the clutter to my minimalist husband by pointing out that it was cheaper than therapy. Also I try to keep perspective, which is slightly easier to do as you get older. I wish I could gift that to my teenage daughter, but we have to get there on our own.
How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?
Usually two. It used to be none. I am sort of a coffee heathen, and just drink instant coffee with milk and Equal. I can appreciate really good coffee when I get it, but I don’t make a Thing of it. As a working parent I’m pretty sure it’s mostly about the caffeine.
What's one of your favorite places in the New York area?
I live pretty close to JFK airport, which tbh is nobody’s “favorite place” but right now I would love to be able to go there because it would mean we could travel and discover other places again!
Any book or podcast recommendations?
My favorite business book of all time is Getting to Yes. It’s the book that taught me the power of ‘why.’
My default go-to book is Pride & Prejudice. The book and the movie are downloaded on my phone at all times in case of emergency.
Recently I absolutely loved Circe, by Madeline Miller. It’s mythology meets #MeToo, turning the focus of these well-worn stories to the evolution of a woman finding her strength against formidable odds. Ms. Miller’s attention to detail is pitch-perfect, and her prose rolls and resonates like poetry. I didn’t want to put it down.
What advice do you have for recent college graduates?
Screw 30 Under 30 lists. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
And finally, what’s something that motivates you.
This is a bracelet my teenage daughter made me. I keep it at my desk as a reminder and talisman: the fact that she sees me this way, and because I work she thinks she can do anything, means everything to me.