Skills and Talents of Pianist Make for Great Perfumer

So many of us grew up thinking that you need to have specific skills and talents to enter a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.) That unless you are a nerd with a highly analytical and logical mind, you couldn’t enter the field. Today we interview a mother and daughter who prove our assumption wrong.

For the past 24 years, Judith (Jude) Hollingshead has developed perfumes for Olay, Pantene, Herbal Essence, Fabreze, Pampers and other P&G brands. Mind you, there are only around a thousand perfumers in the world.

Judith Hollingshead had the skills and talents of a pianist. She ended up studying Chemistry and entering a career as a perfumer.

Judith Hollingshead had the skills and talents of a pianist. She ended up studying Chemistry and entering a career as a perfumer.

When I first met her I was curious about what skills and talents are required to be a perfumer and how does someone even decide to become one. The answer surprised me and I wanted to share it with you. See, Jude is not the stereotypical nerd most of us imagine would choose chemistry as a career plan. She was a piano player who studied Chemistry and became a perfumer. And most of it happened because someone saw skills and talents in her that she didn’t yet see.

Because she was always curious and willing to try new things she explored the possibilities presented by others and has had an incredibly successful career as a result. Along the way she has raised, as a single mother, two children. Her daughter Shealyn, a very artistic child, is now finishing her sophomore year as a student of Chemical Engineering at Ohio University – Russ School of Engineering. We talk to both of them about their unusual experience.

Skills and talents required for the job

MD- You are currently a perfumer at P&G. What skills and talents does your job require?

Judith Hollingshead in the P&G lab

Judith Hollingshead in the P&G lab

JH- Perfumery is a blend of Art and Science. A perfume is made up of a blend of

100’s of individual ingredients. A perfumer needs to understand how the ingredients’ smell and how they blend together to form specific odor. For example, an orange is made of materials XYZ, and an Apple is made up of materials ABYZ. A perfumist needs to understand how all the 1000’s of materials smell and how to combine them to achieve a specific and pleasant odor.

So the skill necessary to become a perfumist is, first and foremost, an excellent sense of smell. Another skill that is a close second in importance is the joy of smelling, and desire to constantly want to push out on the boundaries of what is possible. Most perfumers are never satisfied with the perfumes they make, they are constantly working on making them better.

MD- Did you grow up wanting to be a perfumer?

JH- I grew up in the Midwest in the USA. I had a very traditional family. My mother was a stay at home mom who managed the family and my father was a banker

Some of the most important skills and talents Judith Hollingshead transferred from being a talented pianist into chemistry were her perseverance and drive to achieve perfection in her work.

Some of the most important skills and talents Judith Hollingshead transferred from being a talented pianist into chemistry were her perseverance and drive to achieve perfection in her work.

with a 9-5 job. I was not even aware that the career of perfumer was a possibility. In fact, I grew up not even thinking about having a “career” because I did not have very many role model females in my life for this. Throughout my childhood I studied piano, and as I got into my teen years I began to think about what I would do for the rest of my life. Since piano was such an integral part of my life it made sense that continuing to study music, specifically as a performance major in college, would be my course of action. And I pursued that thru about my senior year in High school. It was that year, that my High School Chemistry/ Physics teacher approached me to discuss my high aptitude for Chemistry, Math and Physic. And encouraged me to investigate this as career and major in College.

I am always up to trying new ideas so I began to investigate this direction as an alternative. I found the world of science that year and while I still play piano today and love classical music, I have never regretted becoming a scientist/Perfumer!

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MD- Which of the skills and talents needed to be a concert pianist could you transfer to a career in Chemistry?

JH- The most important skill that transfers from music performance to chemistry/perfumery is hard work, tenacity and the pursuit of perfection

As a performer you must work hard and practice constantly to get a piece to perfection. This is the same for perfume experiments. We are constantly reworking the blend of ingredients to make the perfume the most perfect execution of the idea that we have in our head.

Both represent a sensorial experience. A piano performance is an auditory sensory experience and a perfume is an olfactive sensory experience. And both should give the receiver of the experience a sense of pleasure and enjoyment.

Sometimes people see in you things you still don't. The interviewer at P&G saw in Judith's extra curricular activities something they were looking for. A creative person with a hard science background.

Sometimes people see in you things you still don’t. The interviewer at P&G saw in Judith’s extra curricular activities something they were looking for. A creative person with a hard science background.

MD- What exactly did you think you’d do in this field?

JH- My high school teacher was a huge influence to help me understand I had an aptitude for the hard sciences and the job opportunities that were available.

I realized that while I could always have music with me, that science was a new pursuit I would have to learn.

In college, I fully immersed myself into my science studies, I was not sure what I wanted to do, but as I went to Graduate school to pursue my doctorate, I started working in the area of superconductors and semi –conductors. This was an emerging area, and I loved the research.

It was only after I finished graduate school and started to investigate potential companies that the idea of becoming a perfumer became an option.

Definition of perfumer

Definition of perfumer

As part of the job placement services at Iowa State University, our resumes are posted for recruiting companies to review and request interviews.   Procter and Gamble chose me to interview. I had no intention of seriously considering working for P&G because they did not do work research in the area I had focused on in my studies. I was frankly surprised that they even wanted to interview me.

The interview took a strange turn as the interviewer did not ask me about my research or my work in chemistry, as was the case with all my other interviews. He continually probed me on the hobbies I listed on my resume: playing piano and needlework.

I finally asked him about this and he told me that P&G was interested in someone with a strong scientific background and with a strong interest, skills and talent in artistic, creative endeavors. He explained the job of perfumers, and I was immediately intrigued by the idea of being able to use both my creative, artistic side and my technical work. I loved the idea so much I took the chance and shifted my career to perfumery.

Here's a post about an orthopedic surgeon "I find my passion in the most unexpected places."

Like mother like daughter

MD- Shealyn, you are finishing your sophomore year in college. You’re studying Chemical Engineering but you also have the skills and talent to follow an artistic career. What made you decide to give engineering a shot?

Shealyn Holligshead

Shealyn Holligshead

SH- My mom was very persistent in showing me that I would exceed in my academic endeavors as a woman in STEM even though she knew I would be successful in the art field. What really persuaded me to turn my attention to STEM was that she showed me a Ted Talk by Debbie Sterling about a woman in the engineering field. This Ted Talk was about how Debbie created a children’s toy for young girls that will inspire them to build and create like most boy toys that are currently sold today. Her point was that most girl toys, like Barbie’s, teach girls at a young age to focus on building relationships not physical things.

Deb’s talk discussed her struggle to get through school as a woman in STEM, and then on getting her toy design to the market. This Ted Talk really caught my attention, and I decided that I should give STEM a shot because I have the creative ability to innovate. I just needed to apply this ability to a more advanced curriculum to create/innovate more practical inventions that I believe can have a larger impact on the world.

MD- Jude, what are some of the aspects of your career that you love the most?

JH- In my job I get to develop a perfume that is used by millions of consumers. I consider myself very lucky to be able to touch peoples live and make them more enjoyable. I love the ability to work on perfume design for our products. A tremendous amount of effort goes into making sure the right perfume gets combined with the right product at P&G. In addition to that, in other parts of my job, I get to also work on technical upstream research this allows me to use my technical scientific talents. I have the best of both worlds.

Skills and talents needed to enter a career in STEM

MD- From your own individual experiences, what recommendations do you have for young women and their mothers regarding careers in STEM? Do people need to have a specific set of skills and talents or should a wider range of women give careers in STEM a try?

JH- Having a career in the STEM field can be exceptionally rewarding and I believe we need more women to bring their viewpoints to the problems of today. So many women are brought up to believe that they are nurturing, caring or creative and that this is the direct opposite of STEM. It is a misconception that STEM careers require highly logical and analytical mindsets. In reality, we need MORE highly Creative people to be trained in STEM to develop new Inventions and solve today’s problems in NEW and CREATIVE ways.

If you have creative skills and talents you (or your child) may find great satisfaction in a STEM career. Make sure to explore the possibilities!

If you have creative skills and talents you (or your child) may find great satisfaction in a STEM career. Make sure to explore the possibilities!

Another post on finding your passion with your nose you'll love.

SH- When I talk to young women who are considering going into the STEM field, the first thing they ask is, “how hard is the schooling and the work?” It took me aback the first few times I heard this because I never considered this when I chose Chemical Engineering. Maybe this was because my mom is a woman in STEM and my whole life I saw how possible it was to succeed in this field. I never considered the difficulty. But being asked this many times has given me the chance to really consider how to answer this question. It has led me to my most common recommendation for young women:

Whatever you choose to do for your education and/or work life is going to be difficult whether it is STEM or not. It is going to take a lot of work and effort to be successful in any field you choose. So, if you are interested in STEM fields, go for it!

My experience has been that every class I have taken has been nothing but foreign and intimidating to me. The only way to get through it is to just apply yourself and do the work. Eventually, it won’t be so foreign and intimidating. After working thru a class for 15 weeks, by the end, you will be close to mastering the material if you put in the work. I strongly believe that a wider range of women should give STEM a try, especially if you have any interest in science, math or technology.

I would never recommend it, however, to someone who has no interest in these topics.

 

You can connect with Jude Hollingshead via email at Hollingshead.JA@pg.com or on Linkedin: Judith Hollingshead.

She shares her artistic endeavors (weaving, sewing quilts, knitting and other lace making techniques) on her Instagram: Judeh22

You can reach Shealyn Hollingshead at: ShealynHollingshead@gmail.com or on Linkedin under Shealyn Hollingshead.

 

Women mentors: A group of surgeons like no other

In a heavily male dominated field like surgery, women mentors don’t abound. Yet this group is showing that together women can support each other take on any challenges they might face.

Always interested in women mentors and role models in fields where women are substantially underrepresented, I was excited to discover #ILookLikeASurgeon on Twitter. A movement of women ready to prove that surgeons come in all sizes, shapes and genders, they are fashioned after the #ILookLikeAnEngineer movement which seeks a more diverse and inclusive work environment for women in engineering.  Once Heather Logghe sent out the initial tweet on August 5, 2015 proposing the hashtag #ILookLikeASurgeon, an informal team emerged to champion tweets, blog posts and conversations, right away.

#ILookLikeASurgeon first tweet

#ILookLikeASurgeon first tweet

The initial team included Kathryn Hughes, Paula Ferrada, Ainoha Costas and Marissa Boeck. All surgeons ready to become women mentors and role models to women and girls around the world. There have been over 55,000 tweets by 10,000 participants since that initial tweet. (Source: Symplur.com) Together they are changing the face (and the feet, I should add!) of surgeons around the world.

A powerful statement by Dr. KMarie, a GI Surgeon

A powerful statement by Dr. KMarie, a GI Surgeon

What follows is a must-read interview with most of the initial team. (Women mentors by default!) You’ll find a brief bio for each of these surgeons as well as their Twitter handles at the end of this post.

An informal group of women mentors is formed

Do you function as a group of women mentors?

Paula Ferrada (PF): #ILookLikeASurgeon started as a tweet and became a community of women helping each other, a forum of men and women that recognize gender disparity as an issue and wanted to be part of the difference. As a consequence, many organizations have supported these efforts. The main champions being the Association for Women Surgeons (AWS) and the American College of Surgeons (ACS). The involvement of these organizations created some influence in increasing possibilities of mentoring and networking. In fact many very well known women mentors, innovators and women leader surgeons joined! This was very inspiring for resident students and for all of us young surgeons in training.

"A huge part of changing culture starts with believing we are deserving of a better environment," Paula Ferrada, MD

“A huge part of changing culture starts with believing we are deserving of a better environment,” Paula Ferrada, MD

The movement was broadcasted at the last AWS conference, resulting on a New England Journal of Medicine forum, and was included in the ACS women in surgery committee interviews. Since the first tweet, the movement has been international, with a strong following in Ireland, England, Australia and articles in German, French, and Spanish. In November, a panel of women surgeons was broadcasted live in Bolivia. Many of the tweets are highlighted by the newly organized Women in Surgery Africa organization.

We believe that by opening a space and encouraging our voice, starting discussions not only pertinent to gender disparity but other disparities in surgery and in medicine, we have started at least asking the thought questions.

A huge part of changing culture starts with believing we are deserving of a better environment.

The medical field is notoriously male-dominated and the surgical specialties even more so. Did you have women mentors and role models growing up?

PF: I have been very fortunate in having women mentors and man mentors. I have mentors for every part of my life too. Mentors that help me academically, mentors for research, mentors that keep me grounded and balanced.

I believe mentoring is multidirectional. It is very rare that a mentor will come to you and offer help out of the blue, but most of accomplished professionals will not deny help when asked. In occasions when I have found myself in difficult situations or when I want an opportunity and I can’t find my way to get it, I seek help, call friends, make connections with professionals around me. Many of these connections have grown into amazing relationships that have lasted years.

Reaching out to other women in your field can make it harder to be ignored.

Reaching out to other women in your field can make it harder to be ignored.

Ainhoa Costas (AC): I actually never had women mentors or men mentors, until the last couple of years. I have, though, had an amazing role model in my mother, who I admire and always look to for advice. I have also met several people over the years, not necessarily in medicine, who have impressed me with their approach to life and work. I try to find the best characteristics in them and use them as a model for myself.

Heather Logghe (right) of #ILookLikeASurgeon

Heather Logghe (right) of #ILookLikeASurgeon

Heather Logghe (HL): I grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin with very few role models with professional degrees. I was introduced to a male surgeon by a teacher in high school and he was actually the only surgeon I had the opportunity to personally speak with until I attended medical school. I think that having more mentors with college degrees and particularly in the field of medicine would have helped me feel more comfortable in my own skin professionally and prevented some of the challenges of “impostor syndrome” I have worked consciously to overcome.

Marisa Boeck (MB): Throughout my life I’ve had a mixture of both male and female role models across a variety of disciplines. Mentors have definitely been harder to come by, until recently. On beginning general surgical residency, the gender imbalance, especially in leadership roles, was difficult to ignore. Yet I’ve never felt gender has dictated whether I look up to or want to emulate someone. I have found women and men alike who have provided examples of what kind of physician, surgeon, teacher, mentor, and person I do (and also do not) want to become.

Challenges Women Surgeons Face

As surgeons, what are some of the biggest challenges you faced along your career and which ones do you continue to face?

PF: Finding a balance for me is more like a tilt; an all or nothing approach. The most challenging aspect of my career has been learning to know myself, understanding what makes me truly happy; and going for it. Not what makes my boss happy, or what others expect of me. Rather what fills my heart with passion, my mission. In other words, learning to say no to projects that do not interest me and going full force with tasks that I am passionate about.

Personally, the most challenging thing is scarce time with my family. It took me a while not to feel guilty when leaving my son at home. I understand now, this time allows for quality time with his father, and developing my career helps me feel complete, happy with whom I am, so I can be better for myself and my family.

Ainhoa Costas Chavarri (right) of #ILookLikeASurgeon

Ainhoa Costas Chavarri (right) of #ILookLikeASurgeon

AC: Although there is still a lot of sexism in medicine, I was lucky to have trained in a surgical residency that had a high percentage of women and therefore this was not a problem. It is only now that I work in low resource settings like Haiti or Africa that I realize how far behind other countries still are in terms of gender equality. Having grown up in Puerto Rico, with a culture of machismo, this is not a challenge, just something you unfortunately are used to and know how to deal with. I would say my biggest challenge has been not fitting into the expectations of what a typical surgeon is supposed to look and act like. And by this I mean more in terms of personality and attitude. I consider myself a calm, quiet, friendly person and have found my career choice questioned by people who don’t realize that surgeons can come in all shapes and sizes and don’t have to fit a particular mold. While their questioning in the past led me to have moments of doubt, in the end it only served to reinforce my belief in myself and my own style of practice.

HL: Having children during residency, I have faced challenges with family planning and securing a position for residency training. Overall, I have been exceedingly happy with the choices I have made and opportunities that I have had, yet taking the “road less traveled” has a lot of uncertainty that is not always comfortable.

These surgeons wouldn't change their careers for the world. As they know the road is still tough for women surgeons, they support each other on a daily basis.

These surgeons wouldn’t change their careers for the world. As they know the road is still tough for women surgeons, they support each other on a daily basis.

MB: As a surgeon-in-training, I know many challenges await on the path ahead. However I believe one that will persist is time, or more appropriately a lack of it. There never seems to be enough hours in the day, with self-care, be it sleep, healthy eating, exercise, family, a social life, or other interests, getting pushed aside by seemingly more important professional activities. However numerous studies continue to show the error of these ways, with a quote I love from the New York Times Well Blog stating the “Paradox of self-care: The more energy you give to caring for yourself, the more energy you have for everything else.” In essence, both professional and personal activities warrant our attention to make us complete.

Another challenge has been my delay in recognizing and fully taking advantage of the value of mentorship. Women mentors and men mentors serve an essential role in professional development that cannot be overstated. I think this is something medicine and surgery can and should do better. To encourage trainees and practicing physicians alike to “collect mentors.” There are many types and each offers something unique that, when combined, help a career take flight. No one should feel she or he needs to go at it alone. Which is why I love the hashtag #LiftAsYouRise. It is usually used in the context of women mentors but applies across genders, and suggests we can all lessen the challenges of the next generation, with the hope that mentees meet or exceed a mentor’s success.

Coaching and Mentoring Resources in the Medical Field

Do you feel women in your field are exposed to enough career and leadership development resources and to coaching and mentoring?

HL: I feel that both female and male surgical trainees would benefit from instruction in professional development. This is something that I actively sought out on my own in medical school through the office of professional development. I have heard from many women that they did not realize the importance of networking until residency and wish it had been stressed to them earlier.

If you’re ready to move forward, check out our Step Up Program. The best and most cost effective leadership development program!

PF: Leadership training is lacking for both genders in surgery. There are many resources for mentoring through organizations such as the American College of Surgeons, Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma, Association for Women surgeons, but locally it depends on the resources and on the emphasis that the administration places in mentoring and career development. In many cases it is a “build your own path” or trial and error approach. This is not wrong, but a planned method could help save time and to capitalize on young talent.

AC: I think over time there has been an increase in the interest in career and leadership development and because of this more opportunities and resources are starting to become available to both men and women in surgery. In fact, if you look at the schedule for the Women In Surgery conference in February, a large portion of the program is dedicated to these topics. As far as mentoring, it seems that people are starting to realize the importance and impact that it can have on someone’s career. Now more than ever I feel that trainees are actively seeking out mentors for all the different aspects of their lives and senior folk are willing and expected to be those mentors for them.

That's why members of groups such as #ILookLikeASurgeon play an important role as women mentors

That’s why members of groups such as #ILookLikeASurgeon play an important role as women mentors

"As a woman surgeon-in-training I feel I’ve previously lacked exposure to opportunities for career and leadership development, and coaching and mentoring," Dr. Marisa Boeck of #ILookLikeASurgeon

“As a woman surgeon-in-training I feel I’ve previously lacked exposure to opportunities for career and leadership development, and coaching and mentoring,” Dr. Marisa Boeck of #ILookLikeASurgeon

MB: As a woman surgeon-in-training I feel I’ve previously lacked exposure to opportunities for career and leadership development, and coaching and mentoring. Yet I can’t specify whether this is gender or profession specific, or a mixture of the two. Being a physician is difficult, and even more so a surgeon. The hours are grueling, the stress level is high, and the work, endless. Speaking as a resident, it can be difficult to focus on anything other than making it through your day, interrupted by necessary bodily needs and functions. To focus on a seemingly abstract concept as professional and leadership development, when you have a patient in front of you that demands your attention, frequently seems impossible. Yet through my experiences over the past year and a half of research while away from clinical responsibilities, I’ve come to recognize how critical these areas are for all physicians.

In a broader sense, I think the numbers speak for themselves in that leadership roles held by women in medicine and surgery continue to trail those of men. By a lot. This could suggest a gender imbalance in resources and opportunities, or also other life choices. But it is definitely something that warrants attention, which has been one of many topics under discussion in the #ILookLikeASurgeon community.

Advice to Women in Male-Dominated Fields

What would you say to women who are in other male dominated fields and having a hard time being heard? Would having women mentors help?

HL: I would encourage them to connect with other women in their field. This can be invaluable for validating one’s concerns and finding empowerment to take action. I would also encourage them to read books such as The Confidence Code, Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, and Ask for it: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get what They Really Want.

PF: I believe the world is changing and there is positive pressure to avoid gender disparity, and to ensure diversity in every field. But there is still work to be done. Speaking up when necessary and finding our own authentic voice can help. This is the perfect time for change and I think we are on our way!

Finding time to spend with the family is a challenge many women surgeons confront daily.

Finding time to spend with the family is a challenge many women surgeons confront daily.

AC: I would say that, often, it is easy for a single voice to be dismissed. I would encourage them to seek out other women in their profession or even in other fields. Being able to talk to others who are undergoing the same or similar experiences can be extremely validating. Creating this kind of support network (including men who are sympathetic to the cause) not only helps through the difficult times but it can also be empowering and the beginning of positive change. A group of voices is less likely to be ignored and can be the catalyst for change. I would also say never give up on doing what you love.

MB: Social media and technology are powerful. You are not alone, and there is strength in numbers. There are undoubtedly others, if not within your own work environment, then definitely across the globe or within other professions, who are struggling with similar issues. This is how #ILookLikeASurgeon started, based on a young female in an entirely different field sharing her voice. Speak up and form a community. Together, you will be impossible to ignore.

You can follow these amazing women on Twitter

PF: Paula Ferrada, @pferrada1

AC: Ainhoa Costas, @ainhoac63

HL: Heather Logghe, @LoggheMD

KH: Kathryn Hughes, @DrKathyHughes

MB: Marissa Boeck, @KickAsana

Brief Bios

As you can imagine these amazing surgeons have a long and accomplished resume. We are only including here some highlights. Please feel free to reach out to them if you’re looking for outstanding women mentors.

Paula Ferrada MD, FACS, is an Associate Professor of Surgery at Virginia Commonwealth University, the formally Medical College of Virginia. She also holds the title of Director for the Surgical Critical Care Fellowship and the Director of the Trauma and Surgical Critical Care Units at that institution. She trained in general surgery at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. She completed a fellowship in surgical critical care at the University of Pittsburgh and spent an additional year of fellowship training at Shock Trauma Center, University of Maryland as their first Acute Care Surgery Fellow. She is committed to medical education, particularly in the subject of surgeon- performed ultrasound.

She is an active member of the American College of Surgeons National Ultrasound Faculty (NUF) and the International Director for Ultrasound Courses Development (USET courses) for the Pan-American Trauma Society. She is also the Chair of the Education and Research Committee for the PTS. These roles have allowed her to become an accomplished teacher in this subject locally, nationally and internationally. She has been a Councilor for the Virginia Chapter of the ACS, and is currently the Secretary-Treasurer of the chapter. In addition, she is the immediate past president of the Association of Women Surgeons, Virginia Chapter.

Heather Logghe, MD with extensive experience in the intersection of social media, technology, patient advocacy and medicine. Two years experience as a general surgery resident at a Level I Trauma Center at an academic institution. Served as course coordinator for an innovative online course presented by Stanford University and aimed at fostering an international community for mobile health entrepreneurs around the world. Served as assistant director for a free massively open online course (MOCA), Mobile Health Without Borders, designed to foster an international community for mobile health entrepreneurs. Lectures presented at Stanford and streamed live to global participants.

Marissa Boeck, MD, MPH is a general surgery resident at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia, and is in the second of two research years away from clinical responsibilities. The first was spent at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the Master of Public Health program, pursuing studies in health systems, policy, epidemiology, biostatistics, and global health. She is currently living in Santa Cruz, Bolivia working on furthering the development of the city’s trauma and emergency response system, and spearheading the implementation of hospital-based trauma registries. She plans to pursue a trauma and critical care fellowship after completing her general surgical residency, with an ideal career involving a mixture of both domestic and international clinical and research activities.

Ainhoa Costas Chavarri, MD, MPH, FACS is a General Surgeon and Hand Surgeon doing full-time global surgery work. She has been living and working in Rwanda for the past three years through the Human Resources for Health Rwanda Program, teaching and training Rwandan surgery residents and medical students at Rwanda Military Hospital. She trained in general surgery at the University of Illinois at Chicago and completed a Hand Surgery fellowship at the Christine M. Kleinert Institute for Hand and Microsurgery in Louisville, Kentucky. She also undertook an additional two years as a Paul Farmer Global Surgery Clinical Fellow, during which time she worked extensively in Haiti and Liberia and obtained a Masters in Public Health degree from the Harvard School of Public Health. Her international experiences have led her to focus her work on education, breast cancer in low resource settings and global oncology. She is currently the secretary for the newly formed Women In Surgery Africa group. On a personal note, she was born in Spain and grew up in Puerto Rico.

How to negotiate with confidence for what you want

The successful story of Elaine Del Valle

One of the best ways to learn how to negotiate in your career is to ask those who have done it successfully. Enter Elaine Del Valle. Award-winning actor, writer, producer and philanthropist.

You think you can’t have your cake and eat it too? Think again. When you are multi talented like Elaine Del Valle, it’s not really about how to negotiate for the roles you want but how to create them. And these roles are not only on stage or on screen but also as a writer and producer of the material she really cares about.

Elaine Del Valle headshot

Elaine Del Valle, actor, writer, producer and philanthropist is a great example of how to negotiate with confidence

Trained as an actor under the legendary Wynn Handman, Elaine wrote and developed her multiple award winning off-Broadway one-woman play “Brownsville Bred“– her true coming of age story set in the tough neighborhood of Brownsville Brooklyn NY. She’s been featured on films such as “Elliot Loves”, in comedies such as the web series “Los Angeles” and in the short film “Stereotypically Me.” Recent television appearances include CBS’s Blue Bloods opposite Donnie Wahlberg Elaine. She has hosted the Annual Hispanic Choice Awards taped for broadcast on CBS. And she also enjoys a long, lucrative voice-over career. Most recently, she licensed the series “Gran’pa Knows Best” to HBO. As a philanthropist, Elaine has raised over a million dollars for children with autism through the charity cycling event she founded The Mansion Ride for Autism Charity Cycling Event.

Having a career as an actor is not easy. When did you learn how to negotiate your roles?

I learned that being an actress, especially an ethnically ambiguous, commercial-looking Latina Actress, yielded little power. It wasn’t until I took on the role of writer that I yielded power. The question for me was not so much how to negotiate a role but how to create a role that fitted my interests and talents on the stage and on screen, and also behind the scenes.

I am best known for writing my autobiographical one-woman play, “Brownsville Bred.” The play has led me down more paths than I can state and is still creating inroads for me. Because it was my true Latina coming of age story, my audiences were privy to me and my life philosophy. It created powerful connections between me and those who saw it.

One such connection was with the Multicultural Media Forum and Time Warner Hispanic Employee Group, Viva. The groups invited me to perform my life story several times…I had the gift of being seen by network people and later being able to call them my friends.

I learned that my Latino community was hungry for a voice, especially a female voice telling a true story. I also learned that the voice was so strong that people remembered it.

Inspirational quote on how to negotiate by Elaine Del Valle . "I went into the meeting with a basic trust. The dealings were never adversarial. We all wanted the same thing."

To learn how to negotiate, you first need to know what you want.

I knew that I had to continue to write and so I created a web series, “Reasons Y I’m Single”. Writing, producing, directing and acting in the series became an impressive feat that marked me as a proven player in what we, in the NY Latino Entertainment inner circle, call “The Latino Media Mafia”. I built my reputation with hard work, fairness, helping others, appreciation and a very Latina Point of View. And getting to that point enabled me to negotiate projects that were always close to my heart.

These days I wear the hat that I need to in order to accomplish my to do lists. Every morning I wake up and say “I run my own studio. Del Valle Productions, Inc.” It has many divisions, and I act on the needs of each division as they arise. It also means I’m constantly negotiating.

Don't miss 3 Key Negotiating Strategies for Women

Where did you learn how to negotiate larger and larger contracts like the one you just signed with HBO? Did you have mentors and coaches that guided you through the process?

When I was going into the negotiation for HBO to license “Gran’pa Knows Best” I did my homework on the network and how to negotiate with it based on its past negotiations. I spoke with three people who had had former dealings with them. They acted as my mentors and coaches. I felt this was important to get a foundation, so that nothing would take me by surprise.

I was reassured each time that HBO was the very best network to deal with, especially for first timers. I went into the meeting with a basic trust. The dealings were never adversarial. We all wanted the same thing: For the series to air on HBO. I didn’t bring in an attorney until the very end, because I learned long ago that attorneys make money when there is conflict and I didn’t want anyone to mess up a relationship that I worked so long to cultivate. I went to the attorney with the contract that I was happy with and consulted with her to ensure that I understood the legal language correctly.

In a way HBO held my hand through the process. They spelled out what they needed and I worked my way through to the fulfillment of their needs. It was a great example of how to negotiate by focusing on the outcome both parties want rather on what only you want.

Read more about coaching and mentoring here!

Tell us a little bit about the series. It’s a first of its kind on HBO, right?

Elaine Del Valle and William D.Caballero, director / creator of "Gran'pa Knows Best", the new HBO series

Elaine Del Valle and William D.Caballero, director / creator of “Gran’pa Knows Best”, the new HBO series

Yes, it is. I am currently in production of Season 2 of Gran’pa Knows Best—A comedy web-series starring a 4 inch 3D printed likeness of our Director/Creator, William D. Caballero’s 87 year old grandfather, Victor Muriel. Originally from Puerto Rico, Muriel voices the character and offers his real advice on various subjects. The series offers viewers an interactive experience as advice seekers. The questions that grandpa answers.on each episode are selected from social media users who post tweets tagging @ask_granpa and using hashtag #GranpaKnowsBest. Those whose questions/topics are selected get featured in an episode by way of their first name and social media profile photo.

The Gran’pa character poses are modeled by Chang Kim, using the computerized Zbrush program, and are printed in polymer resin using 3D printer technology. Each one is hand painted by Amy Yamashiro and Kate Keisel. They are then placed in a miniature model home designed and 3D printed by Seth Burney. Graphic design and text animation by Chris Cookson accompany the voice and real advice of Gran’pa Victor Muriel. William D. Caballero directs the series, filming in macro perspective, alongside dozens of miniature and life size props. B roll is added to enhance the visual and comedic effect.

Elaine Del Valle and William D. Caballero film HBO series GKB

Elaine Del Valle and William D. Caballero film HBO series GKB

Were you nervous about meeting with HBO about how to negotiate with a large media company?

As anyone could imagine the idea of sitting in the offices of a huge, respected network such as HBO could be intimidating. While I was nervous, my years of stage performances afforded me the luxury of being able to work through the nerves. Of reaching a relaxed center that gave me the ability to focus and more importantly, LISTEN. I think listening is the most important thing you can do in any meeting. Active listening allows for organic reaction. Knowing what you want to accomplish in a meeting is important. But being overly rehearsed, can make you anxious to get your point across and never leads to the openness that the best working relationships are built on.

More on negotiation: 3 Sure Fire Negotiating Tips

What were some of the lessons that can help others learn how to negotiate with a much larger counterpart?

Know what you are willing and able to give before you enter the meeting. Click to Tweet
Never over promise. Get a baseline on what to expect, so nothing shocks you out of sorts. Take notes. Use those notes to follow up with. In my case, we negotiated terms and I sent an email that spelled out the agreed upon terms. They were happy to have them and used my notes to develop the contract.

Elaine Del Valle Headshot

Elaine Del Valle has succeeded in her career thanks to finding her voice and letting it be heard

Listen to the needs of the company. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. For a licensing deal, there are insurance requirements, deadlines you have to be able to make, Trademark and copyright, clearances, etc. It is a long and arduous road that I learned a great deal from accomplishing. And I’d add that if you have never negotiated anything important before, seek mentors and coaches who can guide you on how to negotiate.

For many women it’s hard to negotiate salary and contracts. Particularly difficult for women who are in the arts and social sciences. Do you have any suggestions for them?

Research. In my case, I reached out to a friend whose attorney had many negotiations with the company, another colleague who had a deal that did not reach fruition and a friend who had successfully licensed a film to HBO. I learned from listening to all those experiences.

 You can connect with Elaine Del Valle at:

Tweet her @BrownsvilleBred or @Ask_Granpa

Instagram users can follow her on @DelValleProductions. Follow her on Facebook @DelValle Productions & Casting and @GranpaKnowsBest

And Best of all WATCH GRAN’PA KNOWS BEST on HBO Latino, HBO GO, and HBO NOW! New episodes are on every Wednesday at 7:55pm and also air in between programs on HBO Latino.

 

Never shared secrets on how to prepare for a job interview

There are tons of generic tips on how to prepare for the job interview out there. But very little that is this insightful, and particularly addressed to diverse women.

Lily Benjamin

Tips to ace the job interview form Lily Benjamin, one of the top talent management experts

In a room full of people, you may first notice her because of her physical appearance. Tall (5.8 without heels) attractive and vivacious, she looks much younger than her age. But don’t be fooled, her wisdom goes beyond her years. Her young energy coupled with her insights, attracts all types of generations, including Gen Ys, among other diverse groups. Yes, this is Lily Benjamin, one of the most insightful and successful Talent Management and Organization Development executives I’ve met in recent years. Her depth of knowledge and her ability to convert it into concrete advice makes her the ideal person to discuss little known secrets on how to prepare for a job interview, among other subjects.

Lily has over 20 years’ experience in Organization Development, Talent Management, and Diversity and Inclusion. Throughout her career, she has traveled all over the world acquiring a rich international experience while working in multiple industries: health, pharmaceutical, finance, and consumer goods. These experiences have fed her passion for cross cultural leadership development and for building inclusive environments that foster meaningful contributions to the business.

Make sure to check out: 3 Sure-Fire Negotiating tips for Women

What are the three most important things women should keep in mind when they prepare for a job interview?

Ready yourself to bust stereotypes

It is important to recognize that all human beings have biases, some of them are conscious, and others are not. They just need to be effectively managed. As an interviewee, it is important that you are aware of this and anticipate which unconscious biases may pertain to you, and be ready to bust any stereotypes. The way in which you bust those stereotypes is to intentionally bring your uniqueness into the conversation as an asset and discuss how it complements the work you do. For example: “As a woman, I tend to be cautious, yet committed, which makes me reliable…” If it’s a global company and you are Latina, and the job could grow into the Latino market, you can say, “As a Latina I bring the perspective and richness of the Latino market into consideration to help broaden our perspectives…” The ‘busting of stereotypes’ has to be subtle. Do not overdo it, as it could come across as disingenuous and hurt your credibility. A personal example I use to bust whatever stereotype is out there regarding my accent is to directly talk about it. I do so by referencing how speaking several languages has given me insights into the nuances of different cultures. Busting the stereotype of accents is valuable and gives me a competitive advantage in a world where our clients are increasingly more multicultural.

At a job interview bust all stereotypes

Be ready to bust stereotypes that may play against you

Know your audience and prepare for them

Leverage any social media to learn about the interviewer that you will be meeting, the leadership of the company, and the history of the job (if it is public.) Align your examples in a way that is relatable to the person who is interviewing you; that references past experiences of that person as captured in social media, or that are relevant for their generational group, cultural background, and so on. For example, you should read about the communication styles of Baby Boomers, Gen X or Gen Y and be prepared to flex into the uniqueness of their respective styles. The caveat here is that a lot of what you read are generalizations. Don’t forget that each person is an individual. So stay alert to adapt as you deem necessary in case your interviewer does not meet the generalizations that you researched. Always avoid putting everyone in one box.

Promote your personal brand and competitive advantage, tastefully

At the interview you have to ‘sell a product’, and that product is YOU. You must sell your brand and competitive advantage. Be clear on how to communicate both in good taste, without turning people off.

Promoting your personal brand and competitive advantage plays a really big part in preparing for an interview. Could you speak to this?

Your competitive advantage is what makes you unique and the reason why someone should hire you over any other candidate. One of the tools that have been very useful to me is the StrengthFinder from Gallup. Take the test online and identify your strengths. They constitute your competitive advantage. Then consider how that strength can be value added for the job you are interviewing for.

Your brand is the image you want to project in a consistent basis. How do you want people to refer to you when they speak about you? Do they think of you as a trouble-shooter, as a thought partner, as indispensable? Then you need to make sure that you project that image. During the interview you can give clear examples that reinforce your personal brand, and how you want the interviewer to remember you. Ensure the communication of your brand is done with taste, which is what we call ‘healthy self-promotion.’ For example, if they are looking for a trouble-shooter, you may say, “My teams know me as being resourceful and good at trouble-shooting. Whenever there are issues around technology, people tend to reach out to me. I can usually help them resolve the situation, and if I can’t, I find the way to partner with them and sort things out.”

In preparing for an interview remember that you are your own agent.

If you don’t do some healthy self-promotion, no one will do it for you. Generally speaking, it is something hard to do for women and for certain cultures. But remember, potential employers are calling you in to talk about you, provide context, examples, and so on.

From a recruiter’s point of view, what is the one thing women do much more often than men at the interview stage which loses them opportunities to get hired?

In some cultures more than others, women can come across as tentative, apologetic, or not able to effectively balance assertiveness vs aggressiveness. And no one wants to hire an ‘insecure, aggressive’ person. This is an opportunity to bust that stereotype, by not coming across as such. Aim for balance, by reading the impact you are having on your audience and recalibrating accordingly.

Let’s talk about this. Can you share how women can come across as assertive and not be considered aggressive?

Unfortunately, being a woman, even if you are not being aggressive you may be stereotyped as aggressive if you speak up. But don’t panic, this label is also bustable. You just need to be aware of this fact and be intentional with your actions.

Understanding the fine line that distinguishes assertiveness and aggressiveness is a big step towards a successful job interview

Understanding the fine line that distinguishes assertiveness and aggressiveness is a big step towards a successful job interview

First know the difference between the two. Aggressiveness shows up declarative, individualistic, and close minded. In essence, it looks as though a person is pushing their perspective on others. Assertiveness shows up self-assured and confident, yet open and not threatening others’ points of views. In order to do that, you need to be very aware of how you convey your opinion, how it is received, and how people react to it.

I refer to it as you being ‘part of and apart’ from the conversation. That means that while you are confidently communicating your perspective, you are being part of the conversation. When you separate yourself from your perspective to see how others are receiving your words and how they are reacting to you, you take yourself apart. You distance yourself from your perspective and get closer to the perspective of others. So be prepared to share your experience, while reading your environment and checking frequently how you and your stories are been received. Be mindful that when it comes to communication your words only account for 7% of the message, 38% is your tone, while 55% is body language. Be in the look out for how you are received, as well as assess the tone and body language of your interviewer. For example, as Latinas, we can be passionate and extremely expressive, which can be misconstrued as being aggressive. If you are aware of that, it is easier to effectively manage a stereotype by articulating your intend, or what I call “flashing your intention.”

Here’s an example of how to flash your intentions to erase any gaps between them and the impact your communication produces:  “As a Latina I am very passionate about ‘this’, so if you see my expressions changing and my voice raising, is all good. This topic is very close to my heart…”   By articulating your intention, you are preparing the interviewer not to unfavorably jump too quickly to conclusions.

Although the interviewer asks about your past experience, they really want to assess your potential. How do you let them know what you’d be able to do for them and justify it with your past experience?

Organizations that recognize great talent and hire well, value experience yet look for potential. Interviewers look for both. When they choose to recommend you to the next step in the process, their credibility is on the line. Be a good partner from the beginning and support them by representing yourself accurately and demonstrating what you do, as well as what you can do in support of the shared goals. Start by preparing yourself for the process. Have your story organized around what you have done (experience) and what you can do (potential.)

An interviewer asks about your experience but is assessing your potential

To ace the job interview, make sure you address not only your experience but your potential

Demonstrate depth and breadth with examples.

For instance, Marisa, a woman I recently coached, had been part of different teams in her previous job. She had a specialized role in each team, but she understood well the roles of every person as well. The job Marisa applied for required for her to actually do the jobs of all the team members. So during the interview process she shared what she actually did (experience) and put the focus on discussing what she knew of the roles of others, which illustrated to the interviewer what she could do (potential.) She spoke with confidence and authenticity, and she got a job that had responsibilities beyond what she had done before. Due to her successful performance, just recently, her responsibilities have been expanded even further. The caveat here is that you must do your research and know all of those roles you’re speaking about to demonstrate your interest and knowledge on the subject. That’s how you show potential.

What’s the best way to prepare for an interview?

Prepare, prepare, prepare, prepare, and once you are ready, PREPARE!

How to dress

  • Dress on par with expectations, don’t be afraid to dress better than what the job requires.
  • Be conscious of body odors: have fresh breath; smell good but stay away from overwhelming perfumes.
  • Heels are ok, but don’t overdo it; do not wear shoes you will wear to a club.
  • Keep jewelry to basics, don’t have your attire be memorable or compete with what you bring to the organization.

How to present yourself

  • Be on time and mindful of time.
  • Show up organized, with your questions ready for them – have questions categorized on strategy, industry, people, job, structure, cultures, etc.
  • Be the expert of your subject, and show both experience and potential.
  • Read your audience and adjust accordingly to the clues you are picking up.
  • Share relevant names or contacts if they can strengthen your credibility, but don’t come across as a ‘name dropper.’

How to follow up

  • Send personalized, brief, thoughtful thank you notes, one or two days after your interview so you have time to organize your thoughts. 

How to ace the job interview with amazing research

What kind of research will help people ace the job interview?

In order to ace the job interview you must seek to understand the job description, know the industry, know the business, know about their competitors, and learn about the company’s culture.

You are the best at being you. You're powerful. You are strong. You can do anything. Never forget that!

Forget about trying to be someone or something you are not. Interviewers can easily detect your lack of authenticity. You are best at being you.

One of the many ways to learn about the culture is by researching their history, vision, mission, and values; all of this is available online. Leaders set the tone of a corporate culture. So learn about the organization’s leadership and any relevant information that can connect the interview conversation to them. This means, look up the leaders’ career path, where have they been before, what kind of culture those companies have.

If the leaders you are meeting with published something, read it. Then, only if appropriate, mention it to your interviewer and connect it to the job you are going after. This gives you an opportunity to relate to the company and to show you have done your homework, something all interviewers like to see.   In addition, seek to network with people that do the job you are interviewing for in other organizations and ask them questions to help you understand better what the job entails. This practice will help you show your potential by speaking about specifics and possibilities.

What other considerations are critical when preparing for the job interview?

Preparation is essential. Most interviews are behavioral interviews. What that means is that the interviewer is looking for specific examples. The best way to use your time with them effectively and memorably is to come with your examples ready and organized; put them in a CAR. That stands for C = Challenge (situation), A = Actions taken, and R = Results accomplished. And make sure that you stress your role and contributions in the examples.   The interviewer doesn’t necessary need the details, unless he or she asks for them. Be mindful of how you are sharing your CAR, communicate it as an engaging story with a clear ending. For example:

Question: “Give me an example of how you conducted a project you are proud of.

Answer:

  • Challenge: “We needed to establish a Corporate University.”
  • Actions: “It takes a village for this type of projects, so I used my relationship building skills (promoting your personal brand) to create strategic alliances with senior leadership, put in place business cases, put a team together, found a sponsor and budget, created the strategy, and led its implementation.”
  • Results: “Consequently, we created learning opportunities for all segments of the organization— senior leaders, managers, and individual contributors. These increased engagement scores as seen in the Associate Engagement Survey, as well as retention levels. My responsibility was to spearhead and lead the initiative.” (If you have numbers, offer them.)

In this example you have promoted your personal brand with confidence, and succinctly provided a description of the impact that you made in the organization. Have the interviewer ask for details if they need them. Emotions are contagious. Your preparation and ease on how you present yourself will fill you with confidence, which will in turn make the recruiter feel confident about you and more eager to promote you with the hiring manager. Ensure that before you are done, you clearly and succinctly ask about the next steps in the process. Then send a personalized, brief but substantial thank-you note. You have one to two days to do so. Take your time to be thoughtful.

Many people think that to ace the job interview they must only focus on the interviewer but there are many other people involved, right?

 The process starts with the receptionist at the door, and it includes everyone you cross paths with in the hallway, the parking lot attendant, and security personnel as well. Be poised through the entire process and promote your brand with good taste by leaving positive and memorable experiences of you. Be thoughtful when you speak with people or connect with them. All of these considerations are important because the hiring manager will ask others what they think of you. Even if they don’t ask others, and people’s experience of you were either good or bad – in a memorable way – they might volunteer their opinion of you. Once you pass the screening process with the hiring recruiter, find out with whom you are interviewing next. Be mindful that the interviewing process is not only with the people you are scheduled to meet with. In addition, we are talking about your personal brand, so make sure that after you are hired you keep that image of you to strengthen your reputation and grow in your career.

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly- By Robert F.Kennedy

Dare to take risks and you’ll see amazing rewards!

When speaking with the hiring manager or others, it is good practice to ask the interviewer how ‘this role’ (don’t say job, you don’t have the job yet) will interact and support their role. You will be showing partnership and collaboration.

When gathering your thoughts to write the thank you note. Make sure that you took good notes during the interviews on topics or conversations that you feel were important to the interviewer and relevant to the job. Go back home and do some research about those topics. If you find a brief yet relevant article on that particular subject, share the link and make the connection with its relevancy regarding the position in your thank you note. That will demonstrate thoughtfulness, partnership, and resourcefulness. It will show your interest in learning and demonstrate healthy levels of ambition; this combination is inspiring and welcomed.

If you need coaching to get you ready for the job interview, consider signing up for our RSM Step Up Program. We'll help you be you. Amplified!

Any final words?

You are the expert on YOU and know the value that you add to teams and organizations. They are looking to learn more about you, from you. So don’t be nervous, be confident.

Remember that while the interviewers are making their assessments, you too have the opportunity to assess if the organization is a good fit for you. Take every job interviewing opportunity seriously; the interviewing process is a job that you must excel at. If you are not selected, having had a good experience will further prepare you for the dream job that is awaiting you. So be positive and welcome each opportunity. This perspective should strengthen your confidence so you can be at your best.

You are the one who makes your future happen. Go for it! Best of luck!

You can connect with Lily Benjamin on LinkedIn

Finding Your Passion: The True Door to Success

Nothing makes better company than a good storyteller. And there’s no better way to become one than finding your passion and purpose.

Let’s face it: One of the reasons why you may not be as successful in your career as you wish is because you may not have made finding your professional passion a priority. When you stop to think for a moment about what really intrigues you, what interests you, what engages you in a way that time dissolves between your fingers, what do you come up with? Are you involved with “that” (whatever it is) in your professional life? Or is what you do when you leave work?

Finding Your Passion is the true door to success

TSalon’s founder Miriam Novalle

Many people weren’t raised with a mindset that made finding your passion a priority. And in many areas of society and the world, women still aren’t encouraged to go down that path. We grew up with predetermined ideas of what we could and couldn’t do or what we should or shouldn’t study. Many of us got to were we are by putting one foot in front of the next: high school, college major, Master’s degree… Only the very lucky ones discovered early on what their passion was. The rest of us just got here. So if when you take stock of your life you realize that your most treasured activity happens outside of work, it’s very unlikely that your career is as successful as you wished it were.

Today we talk with a woman who oozes passion from every pore of her body. That passion is tea. But before tea it was fragrances. Miriam Novalle, founder of T Salon, is not only one of the most successful women in business in New York but one of the most inspiring people you’ll ever meet. She’s a consummate storyteller, something that happens naturally when finding your passion in your career.

Finding your passion and purpose with your nose

Let’s start at the beginning. Before you founded T Salon. How did your professional career start?

During the early 70’s two of my dear friends and I inherited a 400 seat movie theater in the Catskills. Out of nowhere we were selecting our favorite movies and creating concerts on the weekends, building an organic health bar and living out our fantasies, Always staying true to our passions and sharing that with our fans.

Would you like to know how Finding Your Passion changes everything? read on!

TSalon at Chelsea Market

I moved from the Catskills to Woodstock where I met a lady who was developing and creating essential oils. I knew then that I had found my true-hearted passion. In 1975 I opened up the first “Body Shop”-style store in Woodstock NY, We blended and created fragrances out of essential oils that were sold alone and added to lotions, bubble baths and love oils. As the business grew, so did the product line to include lingerie and women’s accessories. It grew from one store to five.

In 1982 I sold the concept to Sears and Roebuck. They failed at it royally because they were a self-service store and the product needed a hands-on sales team.

If you’d like to read about another very successful woman in the chocolate business, don’t miss this interview with the founder of Mariebelle, one of the most iconic NYC chocolate boutiques and now a global empire!

What does it mean to be “a Nose”?

A nose is someone who can smell and define flowers, herbs, and barks, and understand their level of intensity. It’s someone with the ability to know how to mix and blend these smells into a successful perfume.

TSalon loose tea samples- Finding your passion is not a one-time thing. Your passion may change along your life.

TSalon loose tea samples- Finding your passion is not a one-time thing. Your passion may change along your life.

I am a self-taught “nose”. I opened my senses to the universe and developed a fine ability to create notes for fragrances and blends of perfumes. My nose was later insured by Lords of London for a million dollars because of its value to the industry.

Want some additional incentives to follow your passion? Read this blog to learn how finding your passion changes everything!

Was finding your professional passion a one time thing or did you have to look for another passion once you changed industries?

Yes, fragrances were a passion of mine. But my true love has always been and still is – painting. I sold my first art installation to Chase Manhattan Bank. I traded my art and abilities while I was in school at Lorenzo de Medici in Florence Italy for a used BMW. (The dealership wanted their family portrait painted.)

I showed my work at the Royal Academy in London. I also concluded a 2 -year study in studio arts in NYC and learned to collaborate with other artists to create installations, knowledge which I would later use to design and create all my packaging for my tea business.

Leverage your passion. Read the top qualities of a leader, explore this blog!

From fragrances to tea

What was the turning point when you decided to get into tea?

My sister was about to marry a man from Liverpool England. I was going to school in Florence at the time, and went to meet her new family and about to be husband.

We had something that I’d heard of but had never been treated to personally, “Afternoon Tea.” What a delight of tastes and smells and tea. Wow. We had scones, Devon cream, jams, and small tea sandwiches, along with tea. Except that the tea was an awful, dark water with loads of sugar and milk. I then realized where to put my nose and my palette of colors: into the tea biz!

Love and passion of what I do fuels the fire within- Quote by Miriam Novalle

Love and passion of what I do fuels the fire within- Quote by Miriam Novalle

How did your experience in the fragrance industry help you in the tea business?

I was blessed and honored to partner with Herb Albert of A&M. He wanted to create a personalized perfume. I would put up my nose and he would fund it. We became partners and we launched a successful, first ever, celebrity perfume called “Listen.” What an amazing ride.

I learned that notes of fragrance were similar to notes of tea. Both fill the senses.

Fragrances to me are on the emotional side, they have a memory of someone that you once loved, someone that you met in a fleeting moment, and the only thing you can recall is that fragrance whiffing by, or that pillow the next morning… Tea to me has the same memory, it’s the morning after, it’s the sitting in that quiet place with yourself or someone else. It is as ancient as the fragrance industry.

Tea is thousands of years old. It was drunk by the old Tibetan teachers, and Buddhist monks in order to achieve wonderfully long and silent meditations. I think they both have historical value. We are steeped in history with both products.

You went from having the largest tea salon in the world to having no stores. Were these adjustments you made in order to continue finding your passion and purpose?

TSalon Private label lines

TSalon Private label lines

“Adjustment” is an understatement. It was a true internal ride to avoid falling into the depths of depression when you think that you have failed and wonder where did you go wrong. It was a process to realize that you have the ability to manifest what you believe in is a great product, but in a different format. To give others the ability to communicate your passion in a different viral way through social networking, newsletters, blogs, mentoring, through your website, through creating pop-up stores, through other stores carrying your product, through hotels serving them in their lounges, restaurants and spas.

Do you ever get bored? How do you continue to fuel your passion?

Never, never do I ever get bored. I collaborate with so many amazing folks daily on new ideas, new ways to bring tea to the forefront. Ideas flow out of my head every day. Love and passion of what I do fuels the fire within…

If you manage Millennials, here's a great piece on how to leverage their enthusiasm and passion!

Advantages of successful women in business

Are there any gender advantages that successful women in business share?

Internal intuition!!!! Vibrationally, women of the past and women of the future speak the same language. We could do anything we put our hearts into… We have big hearts and we are the elders who share our wisdom with the younger generation, and we rock!

You are very interested in health and sustainability. Tell us about some of the initiatives you’re involved with.

Do we have all afternoon? I’m on the board of The American Sustainable Business Council. We go to the White House to speak to men up on the hill on sustainability, on women in business, on making a difference for the next generation.

I’m involved with Urban Zen created by Donna Karan. Bringing yoga and tea to hospitals, wellness centers, and educating the health practitioners to understand there are many ways of healing the body and mind, and tea is big factor.

You’ve had and continue to have a fascinating life. Do you find the stories or do the stories find you?

Both. I think when you’re truly in your skin your life becomes a story.

You can connect with Miriam Novalle at:

asktealady@gmail.com

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Twitter – @TSalonNYC @TSalonLA