Hans Tung 01:16
Hi, today on the show, we have Carolyn Childers. Carolyn is the co-founder and CEO of Chief, the network of the most powerful women in leadership. Chief membership provides a private networking platform to connect and support women executives from all industries. Currently Chief has over 15,000 paid members across 8500 organizations, including Apple, Google, Amazon, Disney, IBM, and Nike, Goldman Sachs, Netflix, Pfizer, Walmart, HBO, Lyft, and New York Times. That’s a long and distinguished list. Chief is a GGV portfolio company.
Robin Li 01:54
And prior to founding chief, Carolyn was the SVP Senior Vice President of Operations at Handy, a home services marketplace, which I must say I like it quite a bit. Previously, Childers has led the launch of Soap.com, where she was the general manager through its acquisition by Amazon. She has also held strategy and business development roles at Victoria’s Secret and Avon Products. Carolyn began her career in finance, working in investment banking at Deutsche Bank. Welcome to the next billion show, Carolyn,
Carolyn Childers 02:24
Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Hans Tung 02:26
Yeah, we love having you on. For the benefit of our listeners, who are women executive themselves, why should they join Chief, instead of all the other existing female leadership network startups (all fine too) that are competing for their time and attention?
Carolyn Childers 02:38
Yeah, it’s a great question. So for us, I think one of the most important aspects of why we wanted to start Chief was that myself and Lindsey, my co-founder, we were getting more senior in our careers and spending all of our time mentoring others, managing our teams, and no longer had a network for us. We found that there were a lot of communities and networks out there, but they weren’t really focusing on senior executives in particular, a place where we could truly be amongst our peers. So that was a need that we really felt that we wanted to go and really build something around. There are a lot of things that cater to senior executives, but oftentimes, they’re like one-time event that you come together once per year. It’s amazing that you come together, and you can exchange ideas and meet people, but it doesn’t sustain, it doesn’t last and it’s not an ongoing place for you to really be able to tap into and and grow as a leader and find the support to the community. So for us it was a really vetted approach, and focusing on senior executive women in a model that allowed for ongoing continued relationships and continued support that we wanted to create as we were thinking about building Chief.
Hans Tung 03:56
Right. And Robin, you’re actually a founding Chief member yourself in New York. What’s your experience like so far, at Chief?
Robin Li 04:03
Well, I don’t know what I can say or not say, Carolyn? I think, went back and looked at my emails back in late 2018 and 2019 to see what was my experience really like, and oh my gosh, I must say I was on that waitlist, original waitlist of like 6 or700 people in New York. And I was like, well, I get this, whether I’ll get off this waitlist or not. But fortunately I did and was one of the first 100 founding members in New York for Chief. I don’t know whether incredible is the right word, but it’s definitely a huge evolution and in very good ways that coincide with the time, now it’s over 15,000 people from 100 with physical to virtual and now hybrid and I think we’ll cover some of this later.
Also from a member experience, so many things have evolved and built up over time, and I think it can only get better. I’ve personally built a really big support network of other women who have your back. But I think for me, the biggest thing was having the confidence to speak out on my own to other female leaders and ability to ask questions and their thoughts without being afraid or being judged, which I think is huge. And I’m actually very involved in the community and the meetups as well, like four hours of holding a virtual meetup in the community. So I’d say my experience has been a lot of fun, but a lot of personal growth as well.
Hans Tung 05:45
Yeah, actually, I will say, I’ve shared this with Robin before. I’ve seen the transformation in Robin over the last few years. She speaks up more and more articulates, and less inhibition, be able to just come out and say what’s on her mind in a very thoughtful way. And I don’t think that’s possible without Chief, and the other exercise and environment that get her to be become more like that. So that’s why I’m happy to vouch for anyone who wants apply for Chief membership.
Carolyn Childers 06:14
Yeah, I think one of the key services that we do is what we call core, which is this peer group model. You get put into a group of 10 individuals that are at your same level of seniority and responsibility, and you meet once a month with an executive coach in the room. I think that there’s such magic in that core model, people are really being able to have the more authentic conversation that is hard to do in just regular networking environments, where you can really talk about, like, these challenges that I am facing as a professional, and as a leader. It just creates some normalization of those challenges, but also accountability of like really starting to lean into those places of discomfort for you as a leader and as an individual. I think so many people have gone through a really great evolution in their leadership, everybody has opportunities to improve as a leader and as a professional, and it’s just been really, really fun to see all the impact that has had on so many of our members.
Robin Li 07:14
And one of the biggest things from core I think was a takeaway is that every female goes through the same challenges, no matter what company you’re in, no matter what sector you’re in. I actually had two kids while being a Chief number, so gone through maternity leave twice. Even at the very first time, not all my peers have gone through this, but other people in my core group either has or on the same journey. There was one core member whose due date was one month before mine, and we were literally going through everything together, and it was really magical.
Carolyn Childers 07:51
Yeah, there’s just something. At first, we put people together with the same function, the same industry in the same (group). And we’re like, the things that everybody is tackling at the end of the day are really about people, it’s about themselves, it’s about the people that they’re managing. And so you get this really great cognitive diversity of people from all different industries, all different functions, that are all still struggling and working through those same challenges. You can do it in an even more confidential, authentic way, because you’re not in the same industry, you’re not in the same company, so you can have those real conversations.
Robin Li 08:28
Yeah, we were chatting about this earlier, and you were telling me about this interesting anecdote from the early days of Chief that you heard a lot of doubts from lawyers who didn’t believe Chief would be a business for VC. So can you tell us about the story, like how did you respond to them back then? And how do you look at it now?
Carolyn Childers 08:47
Yeah, I think a lot of people as they as they tell their founding story, there’s always the anecdotes of like all the nos that you got from so many VCs, and my notes started earlier. The lawyers, who were supposed to represent me in the journey to go and get VC fundraising, literally, these are people that I was going to pay, not take money from. And the conversations I would have would be like, are you sure this is a VC-backed business? I’m not sure that this is the right model for you. I can’t in good consciousness represent you. And I was like, oh, my God, this moment really challenged myself of like, is this the right thing to do, to go forward? I ended up with an amazing, amazing partner who represents us still, on that front. But I think it is just a story that I like to tell because I think I naively went into early fundraising in particular thinking, I’ve been in the startup world, I knew a lot of people in that ecosystem, and that’s what you are transacting on in the first seed round is like the founder. So it’s like, oh, I got this yet it was definitely, definitely not the case. It was very, very hard on early days of getting people to understand and in many ways we were building a very new type of business. And you know, a lot of times you have people who are out fundraising are saying like, oh, well, we’re going to be the Warby Parker of x or the Uber of x. But there was no similar model for us to be able to point to, to say, like, this is what we’re going and trying to build. And it was just the very hard early days of fundraising for sure.
Robin Li 10:30
Well, now you have a lot of startups who come to us saying I am the Chief of x, y, z.
Carolyn Childers 10:37
That’s the exact place we want it to be. We were creating the category.
Robin Li 10:43
I remember when I first met you and Lindsey, and it was late January, or early February, when the very first New York clubhouse, which no longer is there today, but kind of opened up and I was in the opening reception, and it was amazing to see all the women there in person with the energy that was in the room. I remember coming back, like, Okay, this is real, this is different, right? I’m a member. And I think we need to look into it a little bit further, so I emailed you and Lindsey, shortly after. Then a few weeks later, Hans flew out to New York to meet you in person as well, together. That all happened very quickly. And I think, Chief is such a unique portfolio company in GGV, so, Hans, I’m curious, when you were looking at Chief, how are you thinking about it when we first made that investment?
Hans Tung 11:40
Well, I’m so glad you’re accepted as one of the founding member. I was, first of all, very impressed with Carolyn at the first meeting. I remember went to her first office, just a table, and she’s just kind of articulate what she would like to do. And in the back of my mind, I was thinking, wow, this is like, I know, there’s no direct analogy, but it’s a cross between YPO and LinkedIn, and she has control on how interactive and how frequent that experience should be, for starting as more YPO. And this potential for online components, there’s likely there at some point in the future. And when she does that, there’s going to be more interactions and interesting things that can build different communities on top of this platform. So I remember sharing this with Ben from primary, quite excited about what it could be, but understanding what happened down the surfaces. And I remember Ben kept on telling me that Carolyn is the best operator he has ever had the fortune of working with. So I walked away, thinking that this could be very, very, very interesting, so I’m glad we had a chance to partner, thanks to our friends from General capital as well. It has been an amazing journey, so far, was so much more to come to.
Carolyn Childers 13:00
Yeah, for sure. And I just want to say, I feel like I needed to say thank you to both of you as well. Yes, our partnership first started during our Series A, but it really deepened for me during the extension we did in March of 2020, where we as an organization, we had up until that point very much been an in-person model. I had always used the Peloton analogy, who started with an in-studio experience, we were going to skip over the hardware part of it, but eventually get to that digital membership. And that has always been our vision, we just had to do it a lot sooner with the pandemic when it hit in March of 2020. In order to make some of those moves and make that pivot, we went out and did an extension off of our Series A and it was definitely you, both as individuals and as a VC partner that stepped forward at a time where I think a lot of people may otherwise have questions. So your partnership has meant so much to me and so much to Chief so I just want to say thank you,
Hans Tung 14:11
You’re extremely kind, we want to join in the party sooner rather than later. Sometimes life works in extremely mysterious ways.
Robin Li 14:21
I think we already decided on having to be an investor double down on you before covid hit. So you have the timing right.
Hans Tung 14:35
I think your transition to online inclusive online couldn’t be better in hindsight. So you’re both good and have the good fortune of taking advantage of opportunity because there’s always going to be challenges as an operator. There’s always risks always challenges. It is how you deal with them that makes a huge difference on the trajectory of your startup.
Carolyn Childers 14:55
Yeah, for sure.
Robin Li 14:57
So, Carolyn, you were talking about your journey before raising the seed and starting Chief, like, how did you know that you wanted to be a founder? Or be a CEO to start Chief?
Carolyn Childers 15:07
I think so often you hear an entrepreneurial story of, I knew when I was very little that I wanted to be-an entrepreneur, and I had my lemonade stand or my paper route or whatever, you know, a small business that existed. I will just say, for the record, that was not me, that was not my story. But just good for me. It could be, but it’s not. My family actually had a family-owned business as a travel agent. So you can think through like, how did that business do over time in the travel industry? And so being an entrepreneur, being a business owner, like I saw, very firsthand, was the challenges that were in that. So I started my career in very big companies. It wasn’t until a good friend of mine from business school pulled me into Quidsi, which was the parent company of Diapers.com. So I joined to launch and run. So we got acquired by Amazon. It’s a pretty great first startup experience. I think from that moment on, just the amazing leadership that Mark and Vinit displayed, there was a fire that started burning in me from that moment forward, of like, I will not be happy unless I start something myself, and I’m a founder. And I went on that journey for a long time, just trying to think you need to find the thing that you can be deeply passionate about and committed to for decades. It took me a while to find that thing. But for me, I had been somebody who was so focused on my career, and on my job, like current job that I had done a horrible job of building a network and spending time meeting other people and investing in myself as a leader, that all of these things started to come together for me as a person, at the same time, to think about what was happening at a macro perspective. You know, we had the election of 2016, we had the me-too movement, companies were starting to step forward and say, we need to do more to really drive representation. And so you had this macro of what was happening in the world, and the micro of what I was feeling as an individual, that Chief just came together for me as this is what I meant to do, and kind of put together that want to be an entrepreneur with a mission and a business model that I could spend the rest of my life pouring myself into.
Hans Tung 17:35
You mentioned earlier about the extension that we led, and the timing of it, even with more money on a balance sheet, is still not easy to grow during COVID, especially for a previously in person offline model. Can you walk us through what that transition was like? And how did you figure out a way to make online work for you?
Carolyn Childers 17:55
I think honestly, this is the moment where I am the proudest of the team that was really helping to drive so much of this transition. Because we didn’t miss a week, there was not a single week where we were non running and not holding a lot of these experiences. And some of that was that we had already started to envision how do we really think about expansion? Is it all in person? that it wasn’t a brand new idea for us. But more than anything, it was just the dedication that this entire team had to our members and our mission, that we were able to make that transition really, really quickly. And if you think about what’s happening at that time, this is a moment where our members need to achieve more than ever, there was no playbook of how you navigate through a global pandemic as a leader who’s trying to both take care of their teams and make sure that they are safe and healthy, but also major business disruption and challenges like how you navigate through. So the early days were a lot of furloughs and all those types of things of how do you pivot your businesses. And so us moving over into digital, in a moment where our members needed this more than ever, we just saw the democratization of access of digital plus the need, huge driver of engagement so much more. And we were, if you recall, like we had launched just the year before 2019. We were just in New York, we had started to sign leases at the end of 2019 for our next cities. We’re going into LA, we’re going into Chicago, great time to sign leases, by the way, not good timing on our side. And made this transition in a way that allowed us to still, even though we weren’t going to be in person, we still launched LA, we still launched Chicago and we were able to actually add two more cities of Boston and San Francisco in the year. So able to pivot our business model in a way that allowed us to continue to expand. But so much of that was because of the work that the team did. Being able to transition into a virtual experience and added so many things to that experience in that time, we added a hiring board for people who were being let go or furloughed people. We added a ton of workshops around DEI and everything that was starting to happen after the murder of George Floyd. And everybody was really trying to think through like, how do you navigate that as a company and as a business and as a leader, so so many things that we were able to add into the experience that really made it even higher engagement than we could have ever expected during that transition.
Hans Tung 20:37
What were some of the top three things you remember, from that whole transition period that you could share?
Carolyn Childers 20:44
I would say, the first one that I would talk about is actually more team-based. I think one of the things that allowed us to move very quickly was that we were an incredibly supportive and collaborative team, we had camp Chief, where we would do zoom sessions to entertain each other’s kids, like literally, Zoom babysit happening. Yeah. So just the amount that the team came together and really rallied around each other and everything that the team did, over that period of time, is by far, I think, one of the biggest for me.
The second I would say is that despite everything that was going on all these pivots, like the amount that we invested in our technology and in the experience, like I said, we added three new services by April of 2020. In addition to pivoting all of our existing stuff, we’ve launched a brand-new app by the second half of the year. So just so much that we were starting to invest from a technology perspective. And probably the thing that like, I still guilty pleasure of mine, don’t judge me, I still watch it on a regular basis, there was a really amazing brand campaign that we did over that period of time, where a bunch of our members, we just put a call out to our members to do like a record yourself, saying, some of our Chief mantra that we plug put together into, an edited version of all of that coming together called I am Chief. And I still tear up when I watch it. We did like a version recently, that was like a much higher production version. And I still liked the old version better, of like everybody self-reporting, because there was just something so magical about that moment. For me, what that symbolizes is actually the stories and the impact that we were hearing over that time of how much Chief was helping people through a considerably one of the hardest times that so many people had gone through, will always remain top of the list over that period of time.
Hans Tung 22:53
All right, TikTok, watch out.
Carolyn Childers 22:55
Robin Li 22:58
On good phones while you’re bringing that love, because I remember that video, and I couldn’t do it in my head as you’re like talking.
Carolyn Childers 23:04
So good. So good.
Robin Li 23:07
I remember as a member during that time, there were so many people who, as you were saying, are going to furloughs but there were so thankful that Chief was still there to support them. It was like just be on pause, and we’re not going to chase after you to do anything, and Chief was there to take care of you. I think you putting the numbers first was really very authentic, but also showed the true nature of the community of people there to support one another, people putting out lists of whoever got laid off and everybody helping place their friends or connections in groups, too. Yeah. So that was amazing.
Carolyn Childers 23:47
Yeah, for sure.
Robin Li 23:48
You spoke a little bit about the business model, and it’s a lot of individual membership fees. Can you talk a little bit about that? Like, how do people pay for Chief and have that changed over time? And what are some of the reactions from companies that you guys work with?
Carolyn Childers 24:07
I mentioned before that there was this macro environment when we started Chief, where companies for the first time, who’re really not just saying that they wanted to drive more representation, but we’re really starting to put efforts and commitments and budget behind doing that. And so what our business model actually looks like? Right now, we are primarily a B2C model where we build the relationship directly with her but she will go back into the company and get it sponsored. So more than 70% of our members are actually sponsored by the company. What we have seen, which has been very exciting, is that for many companies, they look at that and say, you know, we’re saying yes, when you come in and ask us to get to get sponsorship, which was a big question for us as we launch of like how easy would it be to get This sponsored and we’re blown away at how much companies were very much eager and willing to step forward and do these individualized sponsorships. But they were getting no credit for them because they were reactively saying, yes, instead of proactively saying we’d love to invest in our women leaders to make sure that we have the right pipeline so that we can actually live by these commitments that we have made of wanting to get to more equity in senior leadership. And so we have started to see a lot of companies come to us and say, we’d love to actually do a broader partnership, whereby we can proactively invite people into Chief instead of reactively, saying yes to the ask, and it’s been really amazing to be able to do that. It’s still a vetted process, we still work directly with all of the companies to make sure that we are getting the right level of seniority that Chief stands for, but it’s been just phenomenal for them to get, in some ways, just more credit for the investment that they’re making into these individuals, instead of feeling like they said yes, to me, they proactively invested in me. Right, yeah. So now we have everything from SMBs to Fortune 100 companies that are working directly with us. And it’s been really amazing to see how much interest there is in that community to work directly.
Hans Tung 26:25
In order to serve that demand, what type of innovation do you think you will make, on our end, on product and services, to better cater to the needs of corporate on what is SMBs or in big enterprises?
Carolyn Childers 26:38
Yeah, I think that (there is) the need to really show the impact that Chief has. I think that’s one of the challenges that we have as an organization is that needs of every individual that come into Chief are always slightly different. And so what does success look like for somebody that comes into chief? It’s hard to have a one unified measurement of “you got this” thing, but we are starting to have much clearer definition of the impact that we’re trying to have, and being able to show that over time companies can see that impact and what their investment is producing. So that’s definitely something that’s top of mind for us. At the end of the day, I will say that, yes, we’re excited about this as an additional way of ensuring that the right members are joining Chief. But our relationship is first and foremost and will always be first and foremost with “her”. And for it to be a community for “her” to have as authentic of conversations as she can have, which ultimately does benefit the company. But everything we build puts “her” first.
Hans Tung 27:43
And definitely on different people’s LinkedIn profile, we start to see, Chief member being shown as one of the experiences a lot more than before. So we know that you’re definitely changing the face of corporate America by connecting the female leaders and empower them to do more and learn from each other. What are some of the anecdotes you can share about some of your active Chief members and their stories and journey since they joined Chief?
Carolyn Childers 28:10
Yeah, for sure. Yeah. If you go on to LinkedIn right now, it looks like Chief has like thousands and thousands of employees, because they all put Chief on their LinkedIn which is hard to determine if that means employee or that means member. So it has been just phenomenal to hear some of the stories that have come out of this membership. And in all of the ways that there have been opportunities that have opened up, there has been growth in leadership. So it’s anything from you know, we had a small meetup, where there was a CEO of an agency that was running this meetup. And somebody said to her, my dream is to do your job someday. And they connected afterwards. And the CEO and that agency was like, you know, my sister company is actively hiring for that role, let me pull you into that search. And the woman ended up getting that position. So everything from board opportunities that have been opened for people who have joined Chief. But for me, it’s actually less about the promotion, the new job, the board opportunity, it is actually more of the stories that you hear of, a member who had lost their parents, lost her mom, and the core group is the one that got her through that experience. And that hard time you hear people who have been really struggling in figuring out what they want to do next, and it’s the core group that help them accountable for those changes that needed to happen. And so it’s been really phenomenal to see how much people have championed each other into great new successes, but most importantly, also have supported each other during the hard times because we all have them.
Hans Tung 30:02
From working with you, we also know that you care about inclusivity a lot, in equity. And you’re doing more and more for women executives with diverse backgrounds, people of colors, for example, can you share some of the things that is on top of your mind, on topics or issues like this?
Carolyn Childers 30:20
Yeah, I think for us, it was important from day one to make sure that, as we were building this organization and this community, that we did it through as inclusive of a lens as possible. And so the very sad statistic that exists right now is that for VP and above women, just women, women of color only make up 18% of that. So very small representation in even just women leadership. So for us, when we started, Chief, we had made a commitment of wanting to be double what that industry standard was to make sure that we had really strong representation in our membership, and which, if you do the math, that is 36%. We are not there, I will admit, we’re at 32%, so well above industry average, but it’s still with us every day to try and get to that 36% and make sure that we really have that at the forefront of the community that we’re building. And I think it then also translates into how do we create experiences, once we have that representation within the Chief community. So we have more regular identity meetups, which can span everything from different races, ethnicities, to be able to have and find those pockets within the Chief community. Every month, we have a pretty robust schedule of DEI related workshops and topics. So for us, it’s been not just making sure that there’s representation, but also making sure that there’s a suite of services and experiences that really cater to all different viewpoints within our community.
Robin Li 32:05
I think that what you shared about these anecdotes of the Chief members is very transformational, because I look forward to the Chief newsletter that comes out every week, like, where’s the bold moves? And what are people doing, right? Also Chief members, nominate other team members, you haven’t shared this stat yet, but like, other women are bringing other powerful women into the network. And I think that adds so much more to the community, because it’s very intentional, for sure. And one of the last questions that we have is how has this experience of transforming from an executive to a female founder shaped you, and your journey over the years?
Carolyn Childers 32:54
Feel the pressure, building a company that is focused on making the best leaders that we can be, and so as a founder, I better be darn good to better live up to what I say we should all be. I think there’s just such a big transition to be had from, I was a senior executive at a lot of startups, but I had never been the founder. And as I started, Chief. I went and sent emails to all of the founders that I worked for before, like, Oh, I’m so sorry, I was a pain in your butt. Like, this is really hard. But I do think that there’s just so much more weight that you feel, around what you are building, especially when you’re building something that is so mission-based and wanting to make sure that you’re living by that mission every day. And the way in which you’re building your team, the way in which you’re operating really embodies so much of what you’re trying to build and put out in the world. And in some ways, I think that my journey a little bit as a founder and a leader through that. I think early days can actually make you paranoid if you feel like you have to get everything right, because there’s not permission to fail given that you know, everybody’s going to make a mistake, you’re going to make a mistake. And I think it took a lot for me to get comfortable with that. And what that unlocks is not just the ability for me as a person to take chances, but then for me to put trust in the team for them to go out and be able to move faster and try things. So I think that has been a real journey for me over that period of time, given what we were building, just always wanting to do right. And sometimes you have to take some of that tension off and be willing to really challenge ourselves and recognize that, yes, we will make mistakes as we do that.
Hans Tung 34:57
Yeah, I think you’ve said well, perfect is definitely the enemy of good. A lot of times people feel like they have done so much and therefore why they haven’t received so much, therefore they have the perfect to pay back. And it really is not the case at all. When you’re doing something new, trying something hard, people will make mistakes, for sure, and the guy would get over that, while now are stressing so much about it. It’s easier said than done, but we definitely have seen new founders who have a horrid thick skin tend to do better, because they just don’t mind, make those mistakes and iterate and move forward.
Carolyn Childers 35:32
Yeah, for sure.
Hans Tung 35:33
But we also appreciate what you said about doing more for women of color. That’s not an easy topic. For some of us who come from a more diverse background, it’s not easy to talk about our own experiences as well. So seeing how you’re so active during Black Lives Matter and stopping AAPI hate, we definitely appreciate it. This is very important to GGV, and to us as well. So thank you for that. Oh, yeah, you’ve done and more to come.
Carolyn Childers 36:03
Yeah, for sure. Yeah.
Hans Tung 36:05
Lastly, before Robin asks you a series of quickfire questions, what excites you the most about Chief’s future? And what would you like to do over the next several years?
Carolyn Childers 36:15
Ah, I feel like we are truly just at the beginning. There are 5.5 million women in the US alone, just in the US, at our VP level and above. We are over 15,000 members now, but that’s a small percentage of that. So I am excited to truly build the most powerful network of women in the world, and we are just at the beginning of that, and there’s so much we can do in terms of services that we can introduce to our members to unlock things for them, for us to really think about how we take this beyond the US. There’s just so many opportunities for us over the next several years, but what has always been most important to me and to Lindsay as we’ve been building Chief is that we do it with the right cadence. Because truly what we have built is an amazing group of women that we want to make sure that every time we add more, either members or services, that it is something that our membership is going to be really excited about, and supportive of, and find value in. So we have big goals ahead of us, and we’re excited to go at it with our full membership behind us.
Hans Tung 37:36
Robin Li 37:37
Couldn’t get to you to reveal more.
Carolyn Childers 37:41
When this airing, because depending on when it’s airing, I might be able to divulge more.
Robin Li 37:56
So here are some fire questions for you. One, who is the female leader you admire most and why?
Carolyn Childers 38:04
Hmm. I think it’s really hard to choose just one, I will actually choose somebody, just because I think it was one of the first times that I had actually seen somebody, a woman in leadership. That was when I joined Avon and Andrea Jung was the CEO. And I still think that so much of the way that I want to act as a leader is based on what she put out in the world. I can still remember walking down the hallway, I think it was my second week, and she remembered my name. And just those small (things) still blown away of just how much she cared about the team and made those investments while still being somebody that was trying to pivot and innovate on a hard business model. So I still hold her in such high regard as being one of the first female leaders, the first row seat that I got to really be able to see out there in the world.
Robin Li 39:02
What’s the most helpful piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Carolyn Childers 39:07
Hmm. Well, this goes back to what we were just talking about, which honestly, I don’t know if it’s the most helpful advice I’ve ever been given. But it’s the mantra that is always in my head, which is, don’t let perfection get in the way of progress. And I think it’s just something for me that I always have to say to myself on an ongoing basis as we’re thinking about next launches, next opportunities, etc.
Robin Li 39:31
I have a sticky note on this on my desk as well. Last question, what’s something you recently read and would recommend,
Carolyn Childers 39:42
I read a ton, and not all of them are books that I would recommend because they’re bad ones, but sometimes you just have to escape it and go in and do stuff. I think there’s a few books that I always revert back to and are constantly referencing. The one that I will probably mention here is the Netflix book, what is called the no rules or something like that, it’s the most recent Netflix book. The reason why I’ve asked a lot of my team to read it, I think that there’s something interesting at how much they focus on and the way in which they really built their culture and their teams around feedback. I think that I always have the Brene Brown mantra in my mind of, there’s a really big difference between nice and being kind. And kindness is clarity, and you really need to make sure that you’re giving strong feedback all the time. And especially with something like Chief where we’re talking about growth, and progressing as a leader, you can’t do that without real authentic feedback. And I think that they just have a really great culture that revolves around feedback, that revolves around risk-taking, that there are elements of that, that I really would love to make sure we instill in Chief, I don’t really recall anywhere in there that I’m talking about, like development of people per se. So I would love that balance at Chief, but really great culture of feedback. I found some of what was in that book to be really inspiring as we think about the culture we’re building at Chief.
Robin Li 41:15
Where do you find time to read in your day as a CEO? Because I need to learn from you.
Carolyn Childers 41:21
It’s probably one of the worst sleep habits that you could have out there, but I like reading as I’m falling asleep. And so some nights, that means that I read for a very long time. And then other nights, it’s like, I read a sentence, and then I’m done. But that’s the only time that I can really work it in. Or if I wake up well in the middle of the night, I’ll read. I’m sure all sleep experts would be like, this is the worst habit ever, you should have all devices away from you. I have my backlit, iPad that I’m reading off at night. But my one best hack is I read a lot. But I also listened to a lot of podcasts, and for me, that is in the morning, I do about an hour bike ride every morning listening to some podcast. And to me, that is just a great forum to be inspired by so many other things that are happening out in the world and kind of get into the right mindset to go into Chief that day, like it expands my mind before narrows in on Chief. So those are my two habits, I guess.
Hans Tung 42:25
Very interesting. I definitely relate to some of them. I feel that whenever I’m thinking about at night, a topic that is on top of my mind, or the time I wake up early in the morning, like four or five o’clock in the morning, is just I get that sense of clarity, because the mind had been working while I’m sleeping. Again, as you said, sleep experts are not going to like that very much. We thought about it subconsciously for a few hours, so that we go through the logic again, it’s the level of clarity and just kind of know how you are supposed to make decisions, especially on trade-off decisions. So that has worked well for me. Yeah, for sure. Great. This is fantastic. I really enjoy this opportunity for us to interview on this thing.
Carolyn Childers 43:09
Yeah, same, I have always loved our conversations. I’m glad we could do it in this format instead of in a boardroom. But very fun. And thanks for having me on.
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