Find Your Voice
By: Stef Caldwell
And share your story
When you work for THE data storytelling company in the world, storytelling – that is, sharing your story – is a huge part of what you do. What I’ve found is that sharing your story is far more impactful once you’ve found your voice. It’s even more so when you find a place that wants you to share your voice and even more so when they give you stage to share it on.
As Narrative Science continues its evolution as a company, one of the things I’m most excited about is the release of our book, “Let Your People Be Your People” by Anna Schena and Nate Nichols. Yes, we wrote a book, but more on that in a minute.
After frequent movement early in my career, I’ve found a home at Narrative Science where I can be my whole self at work and participate in an industry where I am able to help others accomplish the same with theirs. There are so many people that never achieve this in their careers, so I thought I would share a little bit on my journey in hopes that it informs you on yours!
Finding my voice
I attended the ITA City Lights awards ceremony where Shawn Riegsecker took home CEO of the Year. A much-deserved award for his work as CEO and Founder of Centro. So I wanted to take a moment to recognize him for helping me find my voice, which ultimately led me to Narrative Science, where I get to use it to be an instrumental figure in igniting a data storytelling revolution.
When you are young in your career, you really have no concept of how influential key figures will be in shaping you into the person you are becoming and informing your behaviors and actions in the workplace and beyond. Although my time at Centro was short, the impact that Shawn had on my career has been everlasting. Shawn was one of the first executive leaders that I had frequent interactions with who was approachable, 100% authentic, and the type of leader I could see pieces of myself in.
He taught me through his actions that it was okay to not always know the answer, it was okay to not always have a good day, and that it was okay (and expected) to make mistakes and pivot as you learned and unearthed more information on your journey.
He made the people and the culture at Centro his absolute first priority. Keenly aware that happy, empowered people create happy, empowered customers. He also taught me that you can build a work hard/play hard culture and still deliver “Raving Fan Service” to all of your customers, be they internal or external.
Most importantly, he taught me empathy. He and the team at Centro were (and still are) working towards a new future for people in the ad tech industry, one that reduces burnout and brings soul back into their work. Before starting Centro, Shawn spent a few years killing himself to be successful in the advertising industry, “and for what?” he thought.
He envisioned a company for his future-self that would provide technology that would reduce the time industry professionals spent doing the grueling tasks required in advertising operations. One that would give them their time back, so they could be the creative, impactful problem solvers they were meant to be… giving them back their soul and inspiration. And to be clear, this vision for the future was much needed and it’s working. Centro’s Basis platform is the #1 Demand Side Platform (again) according to the G2 Spring 2019 Report.
Find a place that empowers you to share your voice
There was a stepping stone between my time at Centro and my time at Narrative Science, but informed by Shawn’s leadership style and relentless mission to turn around an industry that had lost its soul, I knew that I wanted to find the same kind of passion in my work. That’s how I landed at Narrative Science. We take analytics technology and give it a soul. We take complex data and turn it into insightful, intuitive, stories that literally anyone can read and understand.
And that stepping stone I talked about? I was a Business Development and Analytics Manager and I loved working with my clients. In fact, I wanted to spend more time on the phone with them, learning about their challenges and how we could leverage data to help them achieve better business outcomes. Instead, I literally spent hours switching between Excel reports and Powerpoint slides constructing stories from data that could inform business stakeholders. These stories recommended how to refresh their strategies to be more impactful with their marketing budgets, their sales/distribution processes, and their innovation plans. Honestly, I lost myself in this job.
After a year of this work, I knew I needed to go, and I knew where I needed to go…
I needed to go to the company that was changing all of this. I knocked on the door, so to speak, of the company that I believed (and still do) was in the best possible position to take the analytics industry and give it back it’s soul: Narrative Science.
Find a stage to tell your story
It’s taken me a few years to develop my voice, build my confidence, and to start telling my story. Fortunately, I have a wonderful environment to practice at Narrative Science – both internally in the company as well as externally with customers.
I was recently offered the opportunity to speak at the FWD Collective Conference (a fantastic organization headquartered in Chicago that is squarely focused on the advancement of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the corporate conversation). The topic was “Bringing Your Whole Self To Work” where I spoke about the experiences I just shared: finding my voice, finding a place that encouraged me to share my voice, and offered me stages to practice on before the real deal. As I took the stage next to an entrepreneur/podcaster and a musician/playwright, we all shared how we were shaped by leaders and companies alike who influenced who we’d become and gave us the confidence to find our own voice and share it.
So where to start? Here’s my most actionable advice for you.
Start by finding your voice. Look at the leaders around you who you admire. Learn their stories. Find out what makes them unique and create your own vocal DNA by pulling the best parts of them into your unique identity.
Next, find a place that wants you to share your voice.
Finally, create opportunities for yourself and others to share theirs – opportunities for storytelling.
Remember when I mentioned earlier that we wrote a book? It’s all about storytelling. Get tips and inspiration to tell your story.
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