Featured Member: Lisa Strong

Lisa M. Strong never stops moving forward. Seemingly indefatigable, she embraces all of the opportunities each phase of her life brings, welcoming the journey and throwing herself headlong into the moment. A multiple-marathoner, she is on the long run when it comes to her career as well, navigating each leg of the race with grace, perspective, and agility, which is why we’ve chosen her as this month’s Featured Member
Tell us your work story : Who are you and what do you do?
I graduated with a BS in Marketing and International Business, and started my career in retail management with Walmart Stores, Inc. I then utilized my CPG and management experience at one of the original “big data” companies, Information Resources, Inc, where I assumed an international project management role. During this time I earned my MBA with a concentration in HR Management. I took a career break while raising my family, and was able to take on several volunteer opportunities, including establishing a 5K fundraising race for the local PTA. During my pause, I also ran several marathons and served as Vice President of the booster club for my daughter’s gymnastics team. In 2015, I went back to part-time retail work at The Runner’s Edge, a local run specialty store. I recently completed a course in Agile project management and am currently looking to re-enter the workforce full-time. I am seeking a position at a company with a mission to create positive change in the world.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment?
My proudest professional accomplishment is the role I played in the creation and implementation of a new user interface for our database department at IRI. I was chosen to be part of a project team whose charge was to migrate our legacy mainframe system to a Windows-based relational database. I represented my department and worked as part of a cross-functional team to design, develop, and implement the new system at home, as well as in our European offices. It was very satisfying to know that I was part of the project that would bring our clients more accurate data, our company greater efficiency, and our workforce better job satisfaction.
What is the hardest challenge you’ve faced, work-wise?
The hardest challenge I’ve faced work-wise was the decision to take a break to stay home after having my first child. I had been intent on going back to work after maternity leave. I loved my job and was experiencing great success. However, at that time, maternity leave was not very long, and most companies were reluctant to allow flex time/work-from-home/job sharing arrangements. I was in the fortunate position to be able to afford to stay home and enjoy time raising my baby (eventually babies). Giving up a blossoming career at a company I loved was a very hard choice. But I wouldn’t change a thing.
If you could change one thing about how your given field operates, particularly with regards to women, what would it be and why?
Historically, upper-level management positions have gone to men, especially in marketing/advertising/technology fields. Things are changing, but it is still a bit of a “boys club” atmosphere at the highest levels. I would like to see women selected and promoted and put on track for C-suite positions. I would also like to see board of directors with more gender equality (not just women, but people of color, and gender non-conforming individuals as well).
What advice do you have for other women looking to make a career change but who are afraid or lack confidence? How is it on the other side? 
My advice is to do research up front. Identify companies that are friendly towards women in the workplace, and who have programs in place to help you re-launch after a break from the workforce. Identify the skills you have and take a class or workshop to bring them up-to-date. Becoming current will boost your confidence. Talk to friends and coworkers. Ask them what they see in you, and have them identify your positive qualities/skills. This will help boost your confidence, and will give you an idea of how others see you, which can be used to identify jobs that may be a good fit. I’m still looking for my re-launch opportunity, so I cannot yet comment of how it is on the “other side”.
Do you have any advice on how to craft a winning pitch?
Be succinct, be honest, be yourself.
What continues to draw you to your chosen field and what do you hope to accomplish in the years ahead?
I enjoy helping people through connection, communication, and positive experiences. Those are the things that draw me to my field. In the years ahead, I hope to find a position doing meaningful work at a company whose mission is to improve the world in a positive and lasting way.
What is the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received? 
Find a mentor, challenge yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Who has been your biggest cheerleader / supporter / mentor?
Helene Silverman at IRI was my first real mentor.
How do you negotiate the balance between life and work when you’re the one setting the boundaries? 
Understand that there will be compromises, but one should never eclipse the other. Sometimes work will be the main focus, but over time that should balance out with family and life.
If you could tell your younger self one thing about what this professional journey would be like, what would you tell her? 
Build a vast network full of interesting people from all aspects of your life/journey. They will be your biggest resource and support system for the duration of your working life.
How do you make work work for you?
I find a job that I love and it doesn’t seem like work. If you view work as a positive part of your everyday life, it won’t seem like an imposition.