Inside the Apple: Women’s History Month Edition
It’s Women’s History Month and we’re proud that Applerouth is a women-led organization. Meet our CEO and the women on our senior leadership team in this interview where they share career advice for women and girls in high school and college.
CEO, Applerouth Education & President, Stravos Education (our parent company)
Senior Director of Operations, Applerouth Education
Director of Strategy and Marketing, Applerouth Education
Global Director of Partnerships, Applerouth Education
Director of Client Services, Applerouth Education
When you were in high school and college, what did you envision for your career?
- Lucia: I always envisioned being in education and even started toward an education degree in college but ultimately chose to major in English. Still, my focus was on working in education.
- Heather: I had a very solid plan. I wanted to become a lawyer, then work as a mediator, and ultimately become a law professor.
- Diana: I didn’t have as clear a long-term vision but I definitely had a plan to seek out the best professional opportunities I could. I chose to start my career in management consulting because it was a predictable step forward that would allow me to keep learning. I’ve always believed more education would create more opportunities.
- Natalie: I was voted most likely to be President when I was a high school senior but I had no interest in politics. In college, I changed majors 9 or 10 times and did not declare until my senior year. Ultimately, it was a part-time job in college (as the first Applerouth tutor!) that made me realize how much I love working with students.
- Ginger: Starting at age 17, I knew I wanted to work in college admissions. The first adults who really listened to me as a young person were in college admissions and I wanted to be the kind of adult who listened to young people. Seventeen year olds are on the precipice of adulthood and have such good ideas to share.
How does that vision align with or diverge from the work you do today?
- Lucia: On the one hand, the vision and the reality are super aligned. I work in education. The surprise part is that my role in this space is a sales role. Sales was a foreign concept to me, but when I started working I realized that sales is all about having a passion for something you believe in and sharing that with people who can benefit from it. Once I saw that and realized that those skills came naturally to me, it all came together – selling educational services that I truly believe in.
- Heather: My career trajectory has been about building a puzzle of all of the skills I have been accumulating in various roles. I am trained as an attorney and today I am a senior operations leader. In operations, I use all the skills of being a lawyer, just in different ways. All the puzzle pieces have come together, they just complete a different picture than what I’d imagined in high school and college.
- Diana: I love that puzzle image. It completely resonates. In high school and college, I had some fairly fixed ideas of what a “grown up” job would entail. What I’ve learned is that a career is defined by the skills you build in various roles more than any single job. When you have a dynamic skill set you can make an impact in a variety of professional and communal roles, perhaps in ones you’d never previously imagined. Like Heather, I feel like all the skills I’ve been building come together in a very gratifying way in my current role.
- Natalie: My career has taken different twists and turns but I have never gone wrong when I follow my passions. In retrospect, the only “wrong” turns were detours I took because I told myself I “should” do something that wasn’t aligned with what I really loved. It’s always good to be aware of those “shoulds” and how they might be driving decisions
- Ginger: At the moment, I am in a role that is a little divergent from what I envisioned, but I started out with my dream job at 22! I never imagined myself in the business world until I became an “accidental” entrepreneur when my first child was born. Once I became a mom, I started my own business as an educational consultant. My first birthday gift to my oldest, CJ, was to not have to go into an office every day. It was a choice I made that allowed me to continue in my career while parenting in the way that I wanted to. It was a privilege to be in a position to make that choice and it also shaped my path in unexpected ways.
What advice would you have for women in high school, college, and graduate school today as they think about planning for their careers?
- Lucia: My advice is to know your strengths, interests, and passions. Gen Z students are open to diverse career opportunities, which is an asset. On the other hand, it is hard for them to envision their career path. Know who you are and stay true to that.
- Heather: Despite what you might think, you are going to change as a person. Stay open to unexpected opportunities that might come your way. Be open to who you will become.
- Diana: Try to see every job as a learning opportunity. Even if some jobs along the way don’t meet your expectations, there’s something you can learn from the role, from the people around you, or from the environment in general. This doesn’t mean you have to stay in a role that’s not a fit but, while you’re in it, do it well and learn as much as you can. You’ll be able to leverage those experiences throughout your career.
- Natalie: Don’t fall for the sunk cost fallacy. Life is short and, even if you’ve put time into something, your passions might change. So don’t stop yourself from following a new path that calls to you just because you’ve spent time on another one. Also, seek out mentorship. Seek out people who want to invest in you.
- Ginger: Try before you buy. Do internships and try various roles in the field you think you want to pursue. There are lots of ways to earn a living and you don’t have to do something soul crushing. A job is just a job while a career is at the intersection of things you enjoy doing in an industry or organization you care about.
What’s the most rewarding thing about holding a leadership position at work?
- Lucia: The most rewarding moments at work are always about people. In leadership you get to impact people, see them change and grow, and support them through that growth. I take great pride in empowering individuals on my team to do bigger and better things.
- Heather: Leadership is where all the skills in my puzzle come together. Good leadership involves a lot of proactive and collaborative problem-solving. I love working with colleagues to solve problems in ways that get the highest level of satisfaction for the most people.
- Diana: Prior to working at Applerouth, I was in spaces where there were very few women in leadership. We need women’s voices in every space and I don’t take for granted that, today, I not only have a seat at the table but that I am far from the only woman at that table! The real reward comes when your voice and vision get real traction, leading to positive growth for the people and the organization as a whole.
- Natalie: Building teams is incredibly rewarding. As a leader, I have the opportunity to help people to see what’s unique and different about their skill set. Sometimes, I see things in people that they may not see in themselves until they’ve had the coaching and mentorship to see it.
- Ginger: Being the someone who gave someone else a chance is pretty awesome. As a working parent, I make an effort to model this for my teams since when I was younger, I did not have a lot of women role models doing the juggle. My professional mentor chose not to have children and my mother did not go back to work until I was 12. It felt like you could only do one thing well. I want the people on my teams to be invited to be their whole selves at work and that includes not pretending like you don’t have a family.
You’ve each worked in a variety of environments and have experience leading. What’s the single most important thing you’ve learned along the way?
- Lucia: Everyone is different and responds differently. When you manage a team, you have to work to deliver messages in ways that work for each person.
- Heather: I’ve learned the value of listening. Listen first, and it will go a long way towards solving problems.
- Diana: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and ask questions. The more you ask, the more you learn.
- Natalie: Leadership is not a position or title. It is how you show up and you will have influence if you show up and are reliable. Don’t underestimate your influence.
- Ginger: Hard things are hard. You’re not doing it wrong. It’s just hard. You’ll find a way over, under, around, or through. But acknowledge that it’s hard.