The Voices of Experience podcast looks back on Season 1
In its inaugural season, the Voices of Experience podcast interviewed a cohort of 10 senior leaders from across the business world. They shared how they landed their first big break, opened up about the challenges of climbing the corporate ladder, and shared the lessons they’ve learned through their storied careers.
Before Season 2 drops on Monday, Sept. 12 (you can subscribe here!), the Voices of Experience podcast team compiled the best pieces of advice our guests offered last academic year.
“You don’t have to check all the boxes before you apply for a job”
Sometimes, it doesn’t take a beefy resume to lock down a new position—or even new responsibilities in your current role. Helen Drexler, the CEO of Delta Dental of Colorado and managing director of Ensemble Innovation Ventures, told the VOE podcast in May that bravery and self-belief go a long way.
Helen Drexler: “Take risks, lean in, challenge respectfully and in a collaborative way, choose where you work, with a company that you value and share their values, and don’t be afraid to raise your hand, to take on a new project. Even if you don’t have the experience. You don’t have to check all the boxes before you apply for a job that says you need to have 10 things. You can have five, you can have transferable skills, know what you want to do, go after it and take risks and be bold, be authentic.”
“How can you be different?”
Dr. Seuss wrote that, “There is no one alive that is youer than you.” Megan Smith (BSBA 2006), CEO of Symbia Logistics, told listeners to lean into that “you-ness” and leverage it for success, whether that’s in your personal life, your professional life or something in between.
Megan Smith: “I think that the motto or lesson that I always like to pass on is find your niche, find that place, whether you’re looking for something personally that satisfies you or if you’re looking to start a business, if you’re just looking to be a great partner or mom or dad, there’s always room to find your niche. And when I say that, I mean, find something that you’re great at that makes you happy, that makes you different. And I really think that that’s true success, is finding something that is unique to you and that makes you happy and that brings you joy. And if it makes you a lot of money along the way, great. If it brings you a lot of smiles, even better. So I will say that I feel like that’s something I did learn as a student was how can you be different? How can you differentiate yourself and find passion in that?”
“Create trusting relationships”
As the COO of United Airlines, Jon Roitman (MS 1997) spends a lot of time in boardrooms. But some of his most valuable experiences have come out in the field, interacting with employees from around the world. Technical knowledge is important, he told the VOE podcast in January, but it’s no substitute for interpersonal relationships.
Jon Roitman: “The most valuable lesson, I think, anybody that can have in any business, doesn’t matter what you do is the value of relationships and value of creating trusting relationships within any environment that you might be working in.”
“Focus on a desire to learn and a good attitude”
Some saw the COVID-19 pandemic as a labor and employment crisis, but Mischa Fisher, chief economist at Angi, also saw opportunity for growth and entrepreneurship—particularly in skilled trades. In that case, Fisher told VOE, job seekers shouldn’t sweat what they have or haven’t accomplished.
Mischa Fisher: “If we look at what people want from recruits in this industry, they don’t say they want experience. They don’t say they want a pedigree. They don’t say they want somebody with a relationship to a friend. What they want is a willingness to learn and a good attitude. And I think there’s a broader lesson there, because some industries really care about pedigree and what school you went to and what company you used to work for. And I think when we care more about forming a more inclusive workforce, you should really focus on those other things, focus on a desire to learn and a good attitude.”
“Focus on your employees”
Even if “the customer is always right,” it doesn’t mean that your staff is second class. As any leader builds their organization, it’s important to prioritize their workers, said Steve Lucas, CEO of ICIMS, when he joined the podcast in July.
Steve Lucas: “If you can choose between focusing on your employees or focusing on your customers, I know this is going to sound horrible. Focus on your employees. Companies that are employee-focused are profoundly more successful than companies that say, “We put our customers first.” It’s not a matter of not caring about your customers. We love our customers. They are amazing. But if you aren’t taking care of your employees, they’re just going to leave and that will have a more profound impact on your customers than anything.”
Subscribe to the Voices of Experience podcast
The Voices of Experience podcast is back Monday, Sept. 12, with a fresh slate of senior leaders from the business community. Listen in every month for inspiring stories, lessons in leadership, tips for career development and more.
Each month, we sit down with CEOs and other business leaders to explore topics at the intersection of business and the public good, from ethics and corporate responsibility to lessons in leadership and where industries are headed. No matter the topic, you’ll gain valuable insights and advice to use in your own career and beyond. The VOE Podcast is an extension of Voices of Experience, the signature speaker series at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business.