Robyn Tingley’s company, GlassSKY, is dedicated to the empowerment and advancement of women in the workplace. Her excellent work in this area led her to be invited on the inaugural Women Transforming Leadership programme. As an expert in advising both men and women on their careers, we wanted to catch up with Robyn on how her own career has progressed and the advice she wishes she’d had at the beginning.
What is one piece of advice you wish you’d had when starting your career?
Be clear about your priorities. I’m a ‘yes’ person and early on in my career, I said yes to everything, wanting to be open to new opportunities and wanting to help people. But I found myself torn in too many different directions, and often putting my goals on the back burner. It’s important to cultivate the skill of saying no or ‘not now’ so you don’t get distracted or overwhelmed by other people’s priorities.
You specialise in advising women for successful careers. What are some of the most common misconceptions about women in the workplace?
A very common misconception is about women and motherhood. Many employers still feel that if a woman has had children, she has chosen motherhood over her career, when that is not true. There is a lot of bias in the workplace (unconscious or otherwise) that keeps new mothers out of the leadership track. I talk about this openly with the management teams I work with, to encourage them to see that women still have ambitions and that progressive employers must rethink their onboarding of female employees post-maternity leave. Otherwise, they’ll lose exceptional talent that they’ve invested in. The workplace is becoming more female, and younger. The employers that demonstrate they embrace new mothers and have a plan to accelerate their re-integration into the leadership track will be the ones who can attract and retain the best talent.
How do you feel work/life balance considerations have impacted your career trajectory? What advice would you give to others facing the same issues?
Work/life balance implies that work is in its own category of time and energy, and everything else in your life sits apart in its own separate category. That’s not the way it works. Work and life are integrated (more so now than ever) and you have to make choices about how you spend your time. These choices will be heavily influenced by what stage of life you find yourself in. Early on in my career, in my 20s, I was very driven to accomplish several work goals, so a disproportionate amount of my time was spent at work. I gave up a lot of social time with friends because I was so driven to realize my work goals. During my days I worked in my corporate job, and during evenings and weekends, I worked on a real estate business I was building with my husband. Work consumed much of our lives and we loved the challenges and the progress we were making. As I accomplished my goals, I would set new goals, and work/life considerations shifted. In my 30s, I fulfilled many ambitions working at the executive level internationally and exploring the world. Now as a mother of young toddlers, my work still takes up a large part of my time, but I’m far more flexible in what I choose to take on because I own my own business. I can schedule work around family commitments, and that is my priority now.
My advice is to recognize that you will find yourself in different chapters during your life, all of which require different considerations of work/life integration. Accept that this will change depending upon what you are trying to achieve at the various stages in your life and the different hats you choose to wear.
What was your biggest career hurdle and how did you overcome it?
My biggest career hurdle came when I relocated to Brussels, Belgium to work internationally. I was responsible for human resources and communications for 14 different countries in Europe, and then later was given oversight for workforces in Latin America and the Philippines. Operating across different cultures and languages takes a different leadership approach and a more seasoned ability to navigate the many different agendas and styles. It takes a heightened knowledge of global political environments, corporate histories, local legislations, and understanding of cultural norms. This took time to fully understand and I learned that I needed to flex my preferred leadership style to make way for new techniques that would allow me to achieve results and align the many varied perspectives.
You participated in the inaugural Women Transforming Leadership programme. What was your most unexpected and useful takeaway from that experience?
The daily blueprint was a game-changer for me. Seldom do you have an opportunity to focus every day – for an entire week – on your own path, style, and career trajectory. Every morning Kathryn presented us with a new framework to think about our goals, where we wanted to go and what gaps we had to close to get there. In those moments I started to map out my personal strategy to help women and future leaders, which is the essence of the business that I now operate. I believe my current success with GlassSKY has come more quickly than it would have otherwise, thanks to the work I did that week.
Robyn Tingley is the founder of GlassSKY Inc., a social enterprise focused on diversity and leadership. She trains audiences around the world and helps companies implement diversity initiatives, specializing in programs for women and Millennials, the two fastest-growing groups in the workforce. She is the vice-chair of the Board of Governors of the University of New Brunswick, and a founding member of Women for 50%, an initiative focused on greater female representation in politics. Her new book, 10 Essentials for the Motivated Millennial, and her career advice have received praise from global senior executives and are featured in Dow Jones, Oxford Business News, Fast Company, CBS, and Monster.com. Robyn was named to the Women Worth Watching list of top female executive trailblazers in Europe, the 20 Most Powerful & Influential Women in California, and by WXN as one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women. She was part of the inaugural Women Transforming Leadership programme at Oxford in 2013. www.GlassSKY.orgBack to top of article