Lisa Friscia

Chief People Officer

Democracy Prep Public Schools

EA Creative’s Women in Leadership conversation series recently connected Chief members Lisa Friscia with Sandhya Jain-Patel and artwork by Eunjoo Byeon, an NYC-based graphic designer and frequent collaborator. Through interviews and artwork we are committed to showcasing women in leadership positions who are making history today. Please send us a message on Linkedin, e-mail us, and share socially to nominate someone in your network.


Sandhya Jain-Patel: Where do you work and what is your current role there?

Lisa Friscia: I work at Democracy Prep Public Schools, as our Chief People Officer.  

Sandhya: What was a defining moment in your career which has led to your current role?  


Lisa: My role has evolved over time, a result of so many smaller decisions and pivots along the way. One moment that changed how I approach my work was in my second year as a principal. We were working to turn the culture of the school around to be a more positive and warm space, centered in learning. Instead of planning the meetings the way I had in the past, I planned it the way I would plan a Socratic seminar lesson with my students—it was the best meeting we had that year! It was a reminder of two things: first, that leaders need to name the goal, and then step back to facilitate, and second, to remember your strengths as you approach any challenge.

Sandhya: When was a time in your career where it was clear that being a woman made your job more difficult? Are there any times it was easier?  


Lisa: This is a tricky question because I'm not sure it's always clear when gender plays a role. Early on, I found that I was being tone policed. This isn't to say that I didn't have real areas of growth. But I found the way that I was given this feedback—and that males seldom received similar feedback—clearly showed that feedback on tone was often a gendered thing. I learned to take the parts of the feedback that made sense, and worked with those on my "personal advisory board," to grow as a leader. 

Sandhya: Have you had a mentor or sponsor who has helped you in your career, and how did they do that? How have you been able to do the same for someone else?  


Lisa: I've had several, but the one most pivotal is an amazing woman, educator, and leader named Eileen. Eileen had similarly started a high school several years before me in Boston, and was then the Chief Academic Officer of a network of schools. She had literally been in my shoes years before, and offered so many valuable insights. Early in my leadership career, she was hired as my coach and helped me navigate one of the toughest years of my life. She honored the challenges that I was facing but was always honest in her feedback to me. Ten years later, I still call her for advice.  

Sandhya: Who is a historic or living woman that has inspired you?


Lisa: As a history nerd, this a very difficult question! I'm going to go with Ella Baker. She was a Civil Rights activist who led tremendous change through community empowerment. Her ability to empower others to lead themselves has always inspired me in my own leadership. I don't always get it right, but, to me she is the model. 

Sandhya: Is there something you would say to your younger self?


Lisa: Trust your gut on the what, but listen better to determine the how. 

Sandhya: What haven’t we asked you that we should and what would your answer be?


Lisa: I'm not sure what the question would be, but my best advice is to stay curious and embrace your inner nerd! 


Sandhya: How is the pandemic affecting your work and daily routine? 


Lisa: This is one of our busier periods at work, so that at least has stayed consistent!  I do find I am taking more calls, to help stay connected to our team. As for daily routine, I am trying to stay consistent with working out and seeing friends, but shutting off has been a real challenge. 

I've also found I'm spending more time working with several nonprofits. For example, I'm on the Associate Board for Gilda's Club NYC, an organization that provides free services to cancer patients and their families. With social distancing, all of our spring fundraisers have been cancelled, and we're trying to get creative on fundraising for Gilda's members, who are a highly vulnerable group during this pandemic. 

Sandhya: As difficult as it is, has the isolation and social distancing had any unexpected benefits?


Lisa: It has forced me to get creative- in how I do my work, to how I stay active. It's also reminded me to be very grateful- to my sister and brother-in-law, who have adopted me, to my teams who consistently impress me with their dedication and creativity.  


Sandhya: Are there specific ways you have focused on staying positive throughout this temporary new reality?


Lisa: It's easy to stay positive when I know the work that my team and I do will help our schools to be ready to serve and educate kids when they likely need us the most. 


To learn more about Lisa and keep up with her work at Democracy Prep Public Schools, follow the links below.

www.linkedin.com/in/lisafriscia/

www.gildasclubnyc.org/






Christine Lane

SVP Executive Producer - Innovation

McCann New York

EA Creative’s Women in Leadership conversation series with Chief member, Sandhya Jain-Patel, will continue throughout the rest of this year. New artwork for this extended series will be crafted by Eunjoo Byeon, an NYC-based graphic designer and frequent collaborator. Through interviews and artwork we are committed to showcasing women in leadership positions who are making history today. Please send us a message on Linkedin, e-mail us, and share socially to nominate someone in your network.


Sandhya Jain-Patel: Where do you work and what is your current role there?

Christine Lane: I work at the advertising agency McCann New York. I oversee all non-traditional advertising production. For anyone in the business, I usually say, “I produce everything that’s not TV, radio, or print.” In practice, the work includes digital, experiential, emerging tech, product, and art.

Sandhya: What was a defining moment in your career which has led to your current role?  


Christine: There were two moments that led me to where I am today, both of which involved taking a chance on a new adventure. The first was accepting a job out of college to work at a boutique experiential marketing agency. The second was deciding to run a tech start-up. Both decisions were made for practical reasons (I needed a job out of school, I needed stable work during the Great Recession), but they became definitive because of my willingness and openness to take a risk, to try something new and unplanned. I’ve now based my career on leaning into the unknown and learning to thrive there.

Sandhya: When was a time in your career where it was clear that being a woman made your job more difficult? Are there any times it was easier?  


Christine: In my mid-twenties I managed a development team, all of whom were males older than me, some of whom had especially large and sensitive egos. I was up against several challenges. Not only was I younger and female, but I also didn’t have an engineering education which meant I didn’t have the skills to directly instruct my team. What I learned to do instead was empower them. I learned what inspired and motivated them. I learned how to protect them. I learned how to ask them questions so that they could discover the answers for themselves. One of my proudest achievements to date is learning how to guide a team of developers to do their best work and earning their praise in the process.

Sandhya: Have you had a mentor or sponsor who has helped you in your career, and how did they do that? How have you been able to do the same for someone else?  


Christine: As the oldest child of three, I feel I’ve been looking for a mentor all my life! Someone to say, “here’s what comes next, be sure to do this!” And yet, not having this guide has forced me to be comfortable with the unknown, with being the only one responsible for the decisions I make. While I haven’t had an official mentor, unofficial mentorship has had a tremendous impact on the leader I am today – by unofficial mentorship I mean the kind of mentorship that happens organically, sometimes in a moment of need, other times without even realizing it until years later. This informal education has allowed me to accumulate bits of knowledge, adopted from conversations and impressions, that have formed my personal work/life philosophy.


These days, I enjoy working with undergrads who are majoring in marketing and have questions about the industry. Even when life gets busy, it feels good to make the time to have a conversation and offer insight that may help someone in their journey.

Sandhya: Who is a historic or living woman that has inspired you?


Christine: One of the many women I admire is Katherine Graham. In her incredible memoir, she outlined her lack of confidence and distrust in her own knowledge when taking over the Washington Post (how many times have I felt momentarily unqualified in my own life?!). And yet, outwardly, Katherine Graham was fearless. She was the only woman to be in such a high position at a publishing company. She had no female role models and had difficulty being taken seriously by male colleagues and employees and yet, she presided over the Watergate scandal with commanding leadership, sure-footedness, and grace. Ultimately, she became the prominent name in a male dominated industry.

Sandhya: Is there something you would say to your younger self?


Christine: Never stop dreaming.

Sandhya: What haven’t we asked you that we should and what would your answer be?


Christine: Years ago, when I turned in my resignation, I remember my boss trying to convince me to stay by saying how important I was to the company. That moment left an impression on me. My takeaway is this: don’t wait until an employee is leaving to tell them that they matter. Tell them regularly and with gusto so they believe it. Your work matters here. You matter to me. You matter to this business. Everyone deserves to hear this more often than we do.


Sandhya Patel: How is the pandemic affecting your work and daily routine? 


Christine: I know the pandemic has forced many people, parents especially, to juggle even more. For me, it’s forced me to slow down and take stock of where I am right now. It’s easy to get stuck in the same motions without stopping to evaluate why, without prioritizing, and setting boundaries. My hope is to come out on the other side of this pandemic with a clearer understanding of what’s important to me and a commitment to orient my life around these things.

Sandhya Patel: As difficult as it is, has the isolation and social distancing had any unexpected benefits?


Christine: Yes! Would you believe it if I told you my team feels more connected now than prior to the pandemic? Once we started working from home, I implemented Monday and Friday video-check-ins, moments to come together as a team to talk about our weekends, set an intention for the week, and share how our week went with one another. Often an individual’s weekly goal is business related, but sometimes the goal is incredibly personal - something someone would never have shared before the pandemic began. When we go back to the office, I plan to keep these check-ins and I hope we maintain the openness and support we’ve cultivated for each other during this time.


Sandhya Patel: Are there specific ways you have focused on staying positive throughout this temporary new reality?


Christine: There are two things that have helped me stay positive during the pandemic. The first is exercise. I’m the type of person who will always take the stairs but will never step into a gym. The pandemic has been a tipping point for me. Besides creating a standing desk and getting out for walks, I now do online cardio/yoga classes twice a week. Additionally, Julia Cameron, in her book “The Artist’s Way” suggests morning pages: three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. I’m not dedicated enough to do these seven days a week, I’m closer to 4-5, but I admit every day that I write morning pages, I feel better.

Finally, I read a blog post several months ago about the secret to enjoying a long winter, specifically in Vermont where I grew up. Want to know the secret? It has nothing to do with a tundra-proof parka (though this helps). The secret is changing your mindset. I have a friend whose life, while healthy, has been ravaged by the pandemic, and yet, her outlook despite all of the negative right now is positive.

As mentioned in the article, “mindsets serve as an overarching framework for our everyday experiences and they can profoundly influence how we react in a variety of situations.” Our mindset allows an experience to become either debilitating or enhancing. A long time ago I decided I am an ever-optimist and it’s the mindset I still live by today.


To learn more about Christine and keep up with her work at McCann New York, follow the links below.

www.linkedin.com/in/christineelane/

www.mccannny.com






Mai Ton

CEO & Owner

EMP HR Consulting

We are excited to announce EA Creative’s Women’s History Month conversation series with Chief member, Sandhya Jain-Patel, has been extended through the rest of this year. New artwork for this extended series will be crafted by Eunjoo Byeon, an NYC-based graphic designer and frequent collaborator. Through interviews and artwork we are committed to showcasing women in leadership positions who are making history today. Please send us a message on Linkedin, e-mail us, and share with your friends to nominate someone in your network.


Sandhya Jain-Patel: Where do you work and what is your current role there?

Mai Ton: I’m the CEO & Owner of EMP HR Consulting.

Sandhya: What was a defining moment in your career which has led to your current role?  


Mai: Last summer, I looked up amidst our beautifully decorated office space and asked myself, “Is this really going to be what I do for the rest of my life?” That was a moment of clarity and made me realize that my last job as the VP of HR for a company was not bringing me any joy. It was having an opposite effect of burning me out.

Sandhya: When was a time in your career where it was clear that being a woman made your job more difficult? Are there any times it was easier?  


Mai: I was at an executive meeting with all 10 of the senior leaders at the company. The VP of Sales told an insensitive joke that was borderline racist and sexist. I lost it and told him and the other 9 men in the room that the joke wasn’t funny. He told me to get a better sense of humor… I can’t make this stuff up!

Sandhya: Have you had a mentor or sponsor who has helped you in your career, and how did they do that? How have you been able to do the same for someone else?  


Mai: I’ve had the fortune and privilege to work alongside some awesome leaders who mentored me and took a chance on a liberal arts major. They have propelled me at various points in my career. One particular person deserves my shout out - Rajkumari Neogy, my executive coach. She helped me realize my full potential and I’m now leading the life that I’ve always wanted because of her tutelage and inspiration.  Rajkumari spent an hour of time each week with me for one full year and led me through a series of exercises to discover my true dreams and realize them. I now try to help others by talking about what Rajkumari did for me. Because of my deep sense of gratitude to all my mentors and sponsors, I pay it forward to as many people as I can.

Sandhya: Who is a historic or living woman that has inspired you?


Mai: I think about all the women in my life who have taught me to be fearless. My most inspiring moments happen usually with the women closest to me; my own mother, my sisters, my nieces and my daughter.

Sandhya: Is there something you would say to your younger self?


Mai: Pave your own road. Working in HR, I see a lot of different ways to reinvent yourself in order to fulfill a dream. The most interesting and awesome roads are never straight.

Sandhya: What haven’t we asked you that we should and what would your answer be?


Mai: I recently had a Tarot card reading and I pulled an alchemy card. Christine Lee, who was my college roommate, a renowned bio-archaeologist also reads Tarot cards, and she told me that I should spend more time mixing my own potion. In this year where I’ve launched my own consulting business, I’m still trying to figure out whether I have more dreams to fulfill.


Sandhya Patel: How is the pandemic affecting your work and daily routine? 


Mai: The days and nights run together. It’s easy to mis-manage my day because I think I have a 2pm meeting, when it’s a 2:30pm meeting. I’m not as productive as I want to be and honestly can’t relax. There is so much news around COVID-19 that I’ve stopped reading it since the numbers keep climbing. The unpredictable nature and uncertainty distract me daily and I try to spend my time thinking about what I want to do once COVID-19 is all over.

Sandhya Patel: As difficult as it is, has the isolation and social distancing had any unexpected benefits?


Mai: A lot of home cooking with nutritious meals and so much more family time together. I am cherishing all the family time we have on days when we would normally be apart during the working hours. It feels like such a luxury and I don’t know what life will return to when we finally flatten the COVID-19 curve!


Sandhya Patel: Are there specific ways you have focused on staying positive throughout this temporary new reality?


Mai: I’ve stopped watching or consuming so much news about the pandemic. I think about the first restaurant we will visit when we’re allowed to eat out again, and I think about going to the beach for some wind in my soul.


To learn more about Mai and keep up with EMP HR Consulting, follow the links below.

www.linkedin.com/in/maitonpai/

www.emphrconsulting.com

mai@emphrconsulting.com