Cultivate Your Career: Lisa Skeete Tatum

Unsure of her next career step, Lisa Skeete Tatum  realized that many felt the same way—so she founded Landit, to help them navigate their career path.

By Lindsay Gutierrez

As a child, Lisa Skeete Tatum dreamed of being the first woman astronaut in space. Her life went in a different direction, but as cofounder and CEO of Landit, she just may help launch the next woman astronaut headed to Mars.
Skeete Tatum, who grew up in Newark, New Jersey, was always interested in math and science. She graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and landed at Procter & Gamble. She soon realized that she was an entrepreneur at heart and went to Harvard Business School with the intention of becoming a venture capitalist.

After a stint as a general partner at Cardinal Partners, a venture capital firm, she found that she still didn’t know what she wanted to be when she grew up. That realization led to a Eureka moment—if I don’t know what I want to do with my career at different phases in my life, there must be millions of women who feel the same way.

So, with Sheila Marcelo, whom she met at Harvard, Skeete Tatum launched Landit, a company that guides women who are looking to transition to a new job or an entirely new career, and women who are seeking to reengage in the workforce after taking time off.

Diversity Woman: You founded Landit when you were at an inflection point in your career. Tell us what was going on in your life and career, and how it led to your idea for Landit.
Lisa Skeete Tatum: I founded Landit as a result of my own personal experience. I was at an inflection point after over a decade as a venture capitalist, and found the process of trying to figure out what’s next to be really challenging. I knew what I didn’t want to do, but it wasn’t clear how I was going to marry my passion, interests, and experience with my next step. Everyone, including myself, expected me to have all the answers and it was really uncomfortable. The more I talked to women in all aspects of my life—from colleagues to fellow alumnae to women at my sons’ school—I realized that I was not alone in feeling a bit stuck about where to start and how to figure out this next chapter. There are over 40 million women who will find themselves at an inflection point, whether they are looking to excel in their current role or company, looking for a new opportunity and feeling stuck, or looking to reengage in the formal workplace. They all face the same question: Where do I start?

During this time, I was accepted as a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute. As part of the program, you have to develop a project that will impact the world. Through this amazing opportunity, I was able to take the project of “me” and turn it into a company that will enable millions of women to bring the full measure of their talent and skills to the workplace.

DW: You pivoted from a STEM career to roles that had nothing to do, at least directly, with STEM. How hard was that and what mistakes did you make early on that proved to be teachable moments?
LST: My background as a chemical engineer was the perfect foundation for a career in venture capital and as an entrepreneur. The problem-solving skills and methodologies you develop as an engineer lend themselves well to the frameworks you need to evaluate an opportunity, define the risks, and determine the path forward as an entrepreneur. The bigger challenge was developing the network and connections needed not only to break into the industry but also to succeed.

DW: Tell us a bit about your upbringing and how it influenced you.
LST: I was born in Newark, New Jersey, to an amazing woman who is a trailblazer and the most influential person in my life. She has modeled and emphasized the importance of education, perseverance, and being in service to others. Among my earliest memories are those of me accompanying my mother to school as she was finishing her nursing degree. She wanted something more for herself and for me. My mom was a nurse in the military and we lived all over the globe. She always presented each new chapter as an adventure: we would meet new people, try new things, and there would be new possibilities with each move. Today my sons will tell you that I always look at life and change as being about excitement and possibilities, not uncertainty or fear.

DW: Can you describe what Landit does, and why it is such a powerful tool?
LST: Landit is unique in both our level of personalization and our ability to knit together the key elements for success in a way that leads you forward one step at a time. Career success is much more than landing the position. It’s about your ability to thrive when you’re in a role and your ability to successfully navigate each transition point.
Our key features include personalized opportunity recommendations based on your skills and goals, tools to build your personal brand and board of advisors, access to world-class coaching, profile revision services, and curated advice, courses, and recommendations. Our mission is to democratize career success by leveraging technology and the right human touch points.

DW: What do you think of the moniker sometimes used for Landit, ìLinkedIn for Womenî?
LST: Landit is a technology platform to increase the success and engagement of women in the workplace. Our turnkey “one size fits one” solution enables companies to attract, develop, and retain high-potential diverse talent. We provide each member a personalized playbook with the tools, resources, and human connections needed to navigate their career path.
Most women are not comfortable advocating for themselves or making their accomplishments known, but it’s critical that we each drive our own story. Like it or not, we all have a brand. The question is, are you going to let it happen to you or are you going to cultivate it? Your personal brand also has a direct impact on your ability to build a strong personal board of advisors and network.

DW: Work-life balance is always on women’s minds. You have a husband and two kids. How do you juggle everything? What is your secret?
LST: I am fortunate to have an amazing family and I am so proud of all three of my boys. I don’t like the term work-life balance because I don’t believe it’s possible. I practice hyper-prioritization and I give my family time and commitments the same prioritization and seriousness that I give to building Landit. I schedule time with my family and for myself in my calendar just as I would an important business or board meeting. I also focus on the three most important items that must be done for work that day, and the balance is shifted to another time. There will always be more to do than you have time for, but only a small number of tasks will really make the difference in moving you forward. Lastly, let go of perfection and focus on excellence.

DW: How do you hire? And how has your deep dive into this world through Landit changed how you hire and recruit?
LST: I hire people who are driven to have an impact and change the world. They must be intellectually curious, honest, talented, motivated, adaptable, resilient, and comfortable dealing in an entrepreneurial environment, and have a proven track record of making things happen. I have a zero tolerance for drama and
I value transparency.

DW: What career advice would you give new college graduates?
LST: My advice is to invest in the cultivation and strength of your personal board of advisors. Make sure you have several sponsors (not just mentors) that are willing to spend their social currency to help you achieve your goals and dreams. In order to do this, you must have a strong personal brand and your accomplishments, capabilities, potential, and reputation must be known. DW

 

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