If You Want To Rise, Ask The Right Questions
Elizabeth Gallagher is Chief Revenue Officer of Lineate. She brings two decades of success in growing digital business through marketing, sales and product development to her role as Chief Revenue Officer. Elizabeth combines her expertise in business strategy, creative innovation and execution, and her proven leadership skills to build and cultivate high-value sales and marketing teams at Lineate and to solidify exceptional fit between Lineate and the markets it serves.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Ms. Gallagher. Here are the highlights of that interview:
Jill Griffin: Where did you grow up? Describe your early childhood and its significance on your life.
Elizabeth Gallagher: I grew up in a suburb of Boston with my mom and five older brothers. With five older siblings, not to mention boys, we would fight over everything – who was going to have the last popsicle, who would be the one to have control over what we watched on television, or my favorite – who would ‘claim’ the front passenger seat in the car. Although I was occasionally given special treatment for being the youngest, most of the time I needed to speak up and fight for what I wanted just like everyone else. I got first-hand practice learning how to be bold and to assert myself. In the long term, this has given me the sensibility and confidence to simply dive into things head-first, assured that I’d solve any problems that came my way. People often talk about ‘having grit’ and for me, growing up in a large family with lots of strong personalities helped me to develop some grit of my own.
I was also fortunate enough to have a hardworking mom who is one of my key role models (although I didn’t recognize it at the time!) She was a single mother working full-time as an education administrator, raising six children and ultimately making our worlds go ‘round while on a tight budget. Even when there was sacrifice (and exhaustion!), she instilled in us a strong moral compass and a relentlessly optimistic outlook on life that is just a core part of who I am.
Griffin: When did you first get the whisper you belonged in business?
Gallagher: I never thought I’d be a female leader in business, let alone for a technology company! I naturally leaned toward creative endeavors such as writing, film, arts and more. In fact, I worked as a freelancer for five years in Boston as a video editor and director producing both documentaries and educational content. Eventually, I relocated to New York City and most of the clients I worked with along the way were eager to follow me, but more importantly believed in my vision which led to the birth of my first educational technology company: Pixeldream. The rest is history. I quickly learned that I enjoy leading, inspiring and rallying people to achieve great things, devising strategic experiments and seeing where they take us.
Griffin: Was there an early teacher that inspired you? Who and how?
Gallagher: My first job out of college was at ABC News Headquarters in New York, where I worked with many men and only one female director. She eventually became my mentor, allowing me to witness someone who was not only amazing at her job, but someone who was approachable, open to ideas, determined and held her ground on tough decisions when necessary. She took it upon herself to coach, defend and mentor every young woman in the office whether they reported to her or not – most did not. Every job I’ve had since, especially those where women were in the minority, I continue to pay close attention to the details to ensure that their voices are heard, that they are growing, and that they are given equal access to opportunities as they arise. Today, at Lineate, we’re turning this to a company-wide initiative where we provide special promotions and services to women and minority-owned businesses to do our part to give these unique voices a leg up in tech. I, along with my colleagues, look forward to playing an integral role in aligning prospective business owners with life-changing experiences.
Griffin: What’s a great piece of business or life advice you have received, who gave it to you, and how has it enhanced your life?
Gallagher: I received the best advice while working on my very first assignment at ABC News Nightline. I found myself in a jam – one so many of us have found ourselves in. I pretended I knew how to do something (when I had no clue) and thought I’d be able to figure it out. I was in charge of setting out the show scripts to each person’s seat in the control room where the team directed the recording of the show. Not only did each person on the team get a different version distinguished by one set of color-coding, the revisions throughout the day were also color-coded using a second system – there was no way to guess or just figure out this system. Needless to say, I laid out all the incorrect scripts 20 minutes before recording that night’s show. And that’s the moment the executive producer gave me the best advice, which at the time appeared seemingly small but has stuck with me: never be afraid to ask a question because a smart, well-phrased question makes you look confident and informed – not stupid, as so many assume or fear their questions will seem. I pass on this advice to everyone who works with me and smile each time I hear someone put themselves out there with a smart well-placed question.
Griffin: Please give me the top three bullet points in your Personal Leadership Credo.
● Be authentic and encourage others to be their true whole selves – it is a huge strength that draws people to you and makes you stand out.
● Be aware and intentional in the way you communicate. We all have different communication styles an adapting accordingly will set you up to lead and to soar.
● Be bold and encourage others to ‘go for it’ every day in small and large ways. I often remind people that the worst that can happen when you go out on a limb and try something new and great, usually isn’t so bad, and that the worst very rarely comes to pass. As the Latin proverb goes, Fortune Favors the Bold.
Griffin: Please share with us any personal setbacks, obstacles and challenges you’ve faced since joining Lineate.
Gallagher: One challenge I faced when I began at Lineate is that most U.S. employees were male – including all of those in upper management positions – while women only counted for 15% of the staff. The diversity of different perspectives, critical-thinking styles, and voices was really lacking. This was challenging because this made me much more of an outlier for the male staff all with an engineering bent. It has been a wonderful experience to find commonalities and ways to acknowledge and joke about our different perspectives, though it wasn’t always easy. In addition, we have made a concerted effort to widen our culture to include a great balance of genders and backgrounds. I am so proud to say that as we have grown over the years, now with 41% staff members being women and we hope to be at 50% early next year.
Griffin: What advice do you have for young, talented, ambitious women who want to rise?
Gallagher: Speak up, be bold, ask for what you want, and find yourself mentors wherever you can – even if it’s not the person you were introduced to on your very first day. The best thinking is born out of original perspectives, so never underestimate the power of your own.