“I’ve done some pretty big pivots in my life. I went from engineer to the business side of venture capital to entrepreneurship, and I feel like everything that I’ve done has prepared me for this — [Landit],” Lisa Skeete Tatum, CEO and co-founder of Landit told Her Agenda.
With an interest in math, science and problem solving, Skeete Tatum attended Cornell University and graduated with a bachelor’s in chemical engineering. Soon after, she got her start at Procter & Gamble, where she got her taste of the life of an intrapreneur. The experience made her realize that she wanted to get into the venture capitalism. So, she took her talents to Harvard Business School to become a venture capitalist.
Though her transition through various career fields seems to have happen seamlessly, in her words “it seems easier than it really was or is.”
Which is why Skeete Tatum along with co-founder and CEO of Care.com, Sheila Marcelo, created Landit; it was to give women a playbook to help them navigate their career through different phases of their life.
Skeete Tatum spoke with Her Agenda to talk about career trends that are on the horizon for 2017, mentors, her advice to those that want to make career changes, and what’s next for Landit in the coming months.
Her Agenda: Why do you think it was important for you to create a career playbook for women?
Lisa Skeete Tatum: We’ve all been there. It’s either, ‘I’m in a company and I want to more successfully navigate,’ or maybe ‘I’m feeling stuck’ — which is where I was — or maybe ‘I’m in transition trying to figure out what’s next.’
Realizing not only as I went through it, but as I watch the people that I knew go through it…. We all hit those inflection points. And the challenge is that it really can seem daunting. It’s really hard to know how to get going.
We’re [also] trying to really democratize career success. How do we knit together those key elements in a very personalized way, to empower women to really own and take charge of her career? Because if you don’t know the rules of the game, you can’t play. So, when we talk about The Playbook, we’re bringing to you, in a relevant way, what you need when you need to move forward. That’s our goal. We do it in a way that’s non-judgmental, that is relevant. With the velocity on how things change, being able to have something that’s yours, that’s safe. You can be vulnerable, but connect with the tools, the humans and resources you need — that’s really our goal: for each woman to own playbook for her career.
Her Agenda: I love that especially when it comes to transitioning. It’s really hard to make a transition from one career path to the next. So what’s your advice for women that want to make that career change happen seamlessly?
Lisa Skeete Tatum: Sometimes on the outside it seems easier than it really was or is. I give all the credit to my mom and those that have come before, but you’ve got to set a vision or a goal and you’ve got to go after it — no matter what. And, part of what we want to do with Landit is… Sometimes you can say ‘I want a change, but I don’t know what that looks like,’ or ‘ I don’t even know my possibilities.’ That’s what we want to unlock. We’ve got to figure out what is it that suits all of you.
What is it that you’re passionate about? What is it that you have [a passion]for? And then you put a plan in place. And it’s about figuring that out. I was born in Newark, NJ, and I ended up becoming a venture capitalist. There [aren’t] a lot of venture capitalists in Newark, New Jersey. It’s about exposing yourself to as many things as possible so you can figure out what fits. But it’s also putting a plan in place.
I gave this speech to women not too long ago about how they build their network and executive presence. There’s a science to it. You have to reach out to people on a normal cadence. You have to put yourself in a place where you can have these opportunities. It really is about ‘okay, if this is what I want to do, how do I get there?’ What do I have to learn? What do I have to exhibit? Who do I need to reach out to, with a very specific ask? And, how do I reciprocate? Because it’s a two-way street. I think people forget that.
Her Agenda: As women, we juggle a lot on our plate. We have kids, families, we have siblings and work on top of that. As a Jill of all trades, how do you deem what’s important?
Lisa Skeete Tatum: My family is first always, period. I’m so fortunate to have two amazing boys and an amazing husband and nothing is worth sacrificing that. [But] just because your family is a priority that does not mean you do not want to do well [in your career]. That doesn’t mean you don’t want to grow and contribute. It’s not an either or.
I do things that one, furthers my passion. And two, I know where I can make a difference. I think what happens is early on people say yes to a lot of things. It may not be something they’re passionate about, or they can make a difference, but that’s my lens. Does it fit with my personal values? Everything is a tradeoff.
Whatever you do, you have to believe in it. You have to believe that your presence makes a difference. And given my DNA, when I’m in, I am all in. There’s got to be something that at the end of that I have somehow made a difference or brought a contribution, and that it gives me joy because it’s something that I believe in. That’s how I chose my board, starting Landit or even contributing at my son’s school. I do it because I believe it in and I hope that my presence makes a difference.
Her Agenda: What is the one piece of advice you would give to younger Lisa, when it comes to life and career?
Lisa Skeete Tatum: Build and nurture your network, period! Have your mentor, sponsor, point expert. Tend to the care, feeding and reciprocation of that network. Be okay with taking risks. That’s where the learning is, and [that’s where the] opportunity is and often people are reluctant to do that. You’ve got to be willing to take a risk — a calculated risk. You’ve got to put yourself out there.
Her Agenda: There has been a pressure of diversity and inclusion that companies are getting. However, we want to make sure that it’s not forced and it doesn’t become disingenuous. How can one be sure that a company is genuinely hiring them and not just trying to fulfill a ratio?
Lisa Skeete Tatum: Studies show that having more diverse teams, not only helps with better outcomes in being competitive, but it’s really a 1 plus 1 equals 3 equation. Great companies will always attract and recruit great people. The question is once they’re there, how do they thrive? Do they stay? Are they promoted? Are they invested in? I would say, anyone joining any company, I wouldn’t focus on the front-end piece. When I’m evaluating an opportunity, I would be looking at what are they doing when the person is there, and how do they support them and what’s the track record. Intake is not the issue — it’s the retention. It’s the development, and sponsorship. Those are the questions I would be asking. What does my path look like?
Her Agenda: What is one life motto that you live by?
Lisa Skeete Tatum: I try to do everything I do with excellence. I believe in humility and integrity because at the end of the day that’s all you have is your reputation. I believe in transparency. I know it sounds crazy, but I don’t know any other way to conduct business. What I value and my teammates know that I am all about transparency. When you have transparency and alignment, there’s not a lot of room for all that craziness that can derail you.
Her Agenda: What’s the next step for Landit in 2017?
Lisa Skeete Tatum: We’re focused on impacting many lives as we can with Landit. We’re fortunate to be expanding to not only women globally, but particularly for companies as well. We have an incredible amount of companies that are using Landit as a way to invest in their employees. So, we’re going to continue to do that. And we will continue to make sure we are bringing the best to any woman on the platform because we deserve it.
We want to make sure we are delivering on our promise, to help women to better succeed and navigate the workplace — it’s just that simple. That’s our goal. I want to bring the best experience and product that we can to the woman, wherever she is. Whether that’s in a company, out of a company, in the U.S. or around the globe.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS WAS PUBLISHED ON JANUARY 9TH, 2017. IT’S BEEN EDITED FOR LENGTH AND CLARITY.]