Want To Succeed? Embrace Your Fears And Keep Walking
Beth Haggerty is the CEO of Declare – a professional development platform transforming how women learn, work and lead.
Declare is helping companies like NEA, Goldman Sachs, Point72, KKR and others hire more women and train their female leaders better so they can finally be more actionable about their D&I strategies and promises.
I had the opportunity to interview Ms. Haggerty recently. Here are the highlights of that interview:
Jill Griffin: Where did you grow up? Describe your early childhood and its significance on your life.
Beth Haggerty: I grew up in a small town in central New Jersey right outside of Princeton, in a family with 5 of us kids. It was your typical small town that was safe and inviting. I stayed close with many of the people I grew up with (and social media helped renew some old friendships!). It’s one of those towns that makes you feel safe and it always feels great to go back home. I started babysitting at 12 and have been working since – at the local ice cream parlor and other fun places. To this day I still have strong family roots from New Jersey.
Griffin: When did you first get the whisper you belonged in business?
Haggerty: This is a good question. I was a political science major in college and I thought I wanted to go to law school. (I still am a political junkie so I love politics and the news). But after college I spent a year working for a law firm in New York and I absolutely hated it. This sort of changed my trajectory and I think I just started looking for a job like most people did, through connections. I got into this publishing company that was growing rapidly in the tech marketplace and I started selling advertising. I found publishing, kept moving up through the ranks and fell in love with it. Getting into business was sort of an accident; I didn’t really know what I was going to pursue.
Griffin: Was there an early teacher that inspired you? Who and how?
Haggerty: One is my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Noon. Another is Sister Loretta from eighth grade. Everyone has someone early in their life that found something special in them that none of us realized on our own at that age. A teacher has an impact of making a child feel seen and feel special. It has a huge influence early in your life on how you think about yourself. When you’re young and someone helps you feel confident in yourself it is enormous.
Griffin: What’s a great piece of business or life advice have you received, who gave it to you, and how has it enhanced your life?
Haggerty: One of the single best pieces of advice I got was “focus on results.” I don’t know if it was just the culture I was in but I think that most people in a high-performance company (no matter what they’re doing) have to focus on the bottom line. What did you return to the company? What were the results? How can you identify and stay focused on them? Many people get lost in the detail. It doesn’t matter how you get there but do it with integrity and follow your company’s ethos. The culture at the publishing company I worked at was managed by results. We didn’t have to manage people’s time. We managed to teach them success to deliver results.
Another piece of advice that always stuck with me was told to me by Jerry Leeds, the founder of CMP Media. He and his wife were survivors of Auschwitz. When I was going to leave their company, they were unhappy. Jerry told me “go pursue your dreams. People never remember why you left; they always remember how you leave.” That really stuck with me. If you’re ready for your next move do it the right way. Remember everything the company you’re leaving gave and taught you.
Griffin: Please give me the top three bullet points in your Personal Leadership Credo.
Griffin: Describe a painful setback in your life and what it taught you.
Haggerty: This would have to be back when I had been out of work for a year – I had cancer (and I beat it!), but I was out for an entire year and when I was just going back to work I founded a startup with two ex-colleagues. Up to that point in my life I was very successful at everything I did. We started this company in 2009 when the world was falling apart – we couldn’t raise money and this was a hard thing for me to accept because I raised a ton of money for my companies beforehand. It was more uphill and we weren’t getting to the point when you get the wind at your back. It was very hard for me to accept that the business wasn’t a runaway success. We sold the business but it wasn’t a huge success.
That was the hardest thing for me to accept. I started it myself, put in a ton of my own capital. It took me a while to realize that a failure in pursuit of success is OK. Now I look at it and am grateful for learning what to watch out for, what to not do, what signals to look for. It taught me how to accept that not everything works and that not everything is in your control. Sometimes the timing is off or it’s just not the right fit, and understand that that is not on you. The biggest lesson is to recognize it much earlier and don’t continue to push against all of the odds. I am someone who thinks I can make anything work if I just keep working really hard and it’s just not like that. So, I reflected on how hard I worked, and realized it was bad timing.
Griffin: What advice do you have for young, talented, ambitious women who want to rise?
Haggerty: Speak up. Seek help. Don’t feel inhibited by your gender, race, ethnicity or anything else. You have to keep trying to push forward toward things that make you feel good. Don’t listen to that voice telling you “I’m not good enough.” As a matter of fact, embrace those thoughts and use them to push yourself forward. Be fearless. Whatever you do, don’t quit. The world needs you in the workforce.