Amber: So welcome to BusinessMakers Denise.
Denise: Thank you for having me.
Amber: Thanks for being here. We are in a co-working space called WorkFlourish on Sam Houston Toll way because you don’t have like a traditional office. Tell me about Watchherwork.com.
Denise: So WatchHerWork is a digital learning community for professional women. What I like to say my job is is I capture, curate and communicate female brilliance. I interview the most dynamic women – short clips giving advice about a whole host of subjects; how do you tell your boss you’re pregnant, how do you ask for a raise, how do you negotiate severance, what do you do if a client hits on you, what do you do if you cry at work? There’s not really a good place to and ask those questions, not in a way that you won’t be taxed; that’s the other thing. So that anonymity, creating an environment where we can learn from the best and brightest that have actually done it is really powerful. I think I heard a stat the other day that 6 million blog posts are written every day; isn’t that exhausting?
Amber: I used to be one of those writers.
Denise: So we have a deluge of information, but how much of it is really good? How much of it is wide but not deep?
Amber: Sure or how much of it is fake?
Denise: I don’t need to see one more article about 5 things you should wear on an interview; I’m totally over it. So I’m obsessed with those situations that professional women get into in the course of their careers and providing resource for them.
Amber: Like real stuff.
Denise: Real stuff.
Amber: I mean clothes are one thing and okay great for advice on that but you’re right, it’s been done, it’s been said; there’s a lot deeper things to go into these days.
Denise: I’ve got a woman on my site talking about when she had a miscarriage and everybody in the office is treating her like a broken bird because they all know. How do you change the conversation? How do you get everybody to back off, stop soothing you and getting back to work?
Amber: Or pitying you.
Denise: Right. Where are you going to go and get that information? I don’t think there’s a place. And I think that these are the places that women get off track. I always say – I’ve got 2 brothers, one older and one younger – nobody thinks they’re going to take care of my mother as she ages. I could be President of the United States and they would expect me to take care of her, right? Because I’m the daughter. So what does that mean?
Amber: Not that she’s not going to take care of her mother people, just to say that.
Denise: Of course, I love my mommy. Hi Mommy. But do I go to my company’s annual meeting or do I go with my mother to the biopsy? Those are decisions women have to make far more than men have to make in the course of their careers.
Amber: This is true. For the last 8 years I’ve been the one – now working full time and my husband as well – just trying to figure out the childcare. He means well but he’s not the one making those main decisions and finding a nanny for the summer.
Amber: It falls on me – I still love you honey, it’s okay.
Denise: So let’s be honest. I’m obsessed with brutal honesty of what is it really? What are the things that we’re doing that sabotage our success? You know, that woman that wants to have the incredible, hot shot, top of the food chain job but still wants to be Suzy Homemaker and we have to say I’m going to need you to make some choices. You’re going to have to learn to step over some laundry if you’re going to be successful in work. So it’s really I think deconstructing the challenges that women really feel and with a twist.
I practice on the site what I call true diversity. If you’re pretty you have a different experience than somebody that’s not at work. If you’re talk or if you’re really, really petite – I have folks on the site that are 4’9”, 4’11”; what’s life like for them trying to be an executive and assert themselves in meetings? They have a different set of experiences. So were most sites are really trying to focus on the 5 or 8 things that everybody cares about I actually kind of specialize in the outliers; in those weird situations that everybody doesn’t have to deal with. Because I think we’re informed and educated by all of those situations as well. But having different types of women sometimes answer the same question, I think there’s a lot of power in that. I mean I’m 5’11”, I’m an extrovert I’ve got a booming alto voice; it’s easy for me to say “you need to go in there and you need to tell him…..”
Denise: That’s easy for me. That’s not going to be for a soft-spoken woman that’s 5’ tall. The advice that I’m giving her is dispiriting her; it’s tearing her down, it’s not building her up.
Amber: And then she’s going to think what’s wrong with me that I can’t do this.
Denise: What’s wrong with me? And also I think that it’s really important to understand men have a full range of experience that they can be successful in. You can be a successful fat guy that’s bald and wears frumpy suits; you really can. You can be thin and gangly, you can wear seersucker suits and bowties, there’s this full range of what you can do as a man in a workplace in terms of personality. But really successful women, they think they have to be just like – like there’s an archetype and if you’re not in this bubble then you really can’t make it.
And I’m trying to push out that bubble. I’m trying to expand it out that you could be an introvert, you can be soft-spoken, you can be you and you can still be the CEO, the CMO, the CIO of that company. And you can still be an entrepreneur that runs your own amazing business. But it’s hard to be it if you can’t see it and so that’s why I use video I don’t just write a whole bunch of articles. Articles are great, we have that on .com, but we also focus on video because there’s a thing about seeing the person’s facial expression and their tone of voice. If you have to watch that video 20 times to get the courage to ask for that raise you can; you’re not interrupting anybody’s day, you’re not inconveniencing everyone.
I always say if I cried at work today I can’t wait 2 weeks from Tuesday to meet with my mentor, I need somebody to help me right now. What do I do tomorrow? Do I apologize to everyone, do I send an email? Do I ignore it and act like nothing happened? Do I hide out in my office all day? What do I do? And so that just in time kind of energy is really critical and really important to the WatchHerWork experience.
Amber: So it sounds like you’ve had experience in the workplace. For people who don’t know your back story give us a little snippet of how you got from Denise Hamilton in the executive world to Denise Hamilton of WatchHerWork.com.
Denise: I’m kind of the original purple unicorn; I’ve worked in a bunch of different situations. I’ve worked in film and television production – both in front of the camera and behind the camera, I’ve worked in Marketing, I ran South Florida for AOL for several years, I’ve launched a magazine so I’ve worked in entrepreneurial pursuits; I have done a little bit of everything. And most recently commercial real estate, I worked for CBRE which was an interesting experience and I also ran the commercial real estate division for Chain Source. In all of those experiences several times I have been the only African American, the only woman or the first African American; like at CBRE I was the first in 5 states at any of the top 5 firms. So I have a couple stories.
Amber: I can imagine.
Denise: So that’s kind of why WatchHerWork was born because people kept saying oh my gosh, go talk to Denise, she’ll know because I had been through so many different situations. And I was like you guys, I have to work, I can’t mentor women all day long. And I was struck by the other side of the mentor relationship. We’re very clear that women need mentors but we don’t really talk a lot about the mentors; listen, chicks that are at this high level, they are breathing their own rare air. They don’t see their own kids; they don’t get to go read story time at the school.
There’s so much they’re giving up to be successful in their space that when you approach them for them to mentor you that’s a real sacrifice if they’re going to do it in any way that substantive. So it occurred to me that you may not have the time to mentor someone over the course of a year, lunch every 2 weeks or whatever, but you can spend an hour or two with me and we can capture so much from you that can benefit tens of thousands of women.
Amber: Well you’re archiving the knowledge of successful women and then you’re helping distribute it to people that need that knowledge.
Denise: And the myth is that it’s for young women and it’s not.
Amber: It’s for all women.
Denise: It’s for all women because there’s a few people to help you when you start your career to find where the bathroom is, but who’s going to help you find where the board room is? There aren’t as many people for that.
Amber: Did you get that? You might want to write it down.
Denise: Middle career women, that’s where you get stuck; that’s where you have the kids and the dog and the marriage is having trouble. That’s when stuff gets really rocky.
Denise: Overwhelming and so this platform is as much for them as it is for the woman just starting out in her career. What it is is I’ve tried to decouple the information from the relationship. You used to have to have a dad that was a plumber if you wanted to be a plumber or a dad that was a carpenter if you wanted to be a carpenter; we don’t’ have that anymore, you can learn those skills on YouTube. So what I’ve done is I’ve basically used technology to decouple that.
I don’t have to be friends with you; I don’t have time, I don’t see the friends I have. It’s so hard to maintain yet another relationship but sometimes I just have one question; how do I handle this or what should I do here? And it’s really phenomenal to have this kind of library of resources that’s still animated, still video-based that you can go and get answers. And sometimes answers you might disagree with; sometimes our women disagree with each other but I’m not in the business of saying THE way, I’m in the business of showing you here’s how these women handled that challenge.
Amber: Here’s a way someone did it.
Denise: And they’re real, live people.
Amber: They are, our own Leisa Holland-Nelson from Women Mean Business, she is on the site. I just was stalking the site.
Denise: I kind of resist the whole celebrity idea. And I get a lot of pressure to put celebrities on the site – oh, I have a connection with this person, you can interview them – that’s kind of our problem. We’re so photo shopped and so glammed out; I don’t want to hear a woman with 3 nannies telling me how easy it is to raise kids or a person with a chef telling me how to get nutritious meals for my family. If I had a chef I could do that too. I’m really obsessed with that regular woman who is killing it day in, day out and juggling and multitasking and how is she solving those problems? What are her tricks? What are her tips? Those are my people.
Amber: She is stepping over laundry, I can tell you that much.
Denise: I believe it.
Amber: By she I mean me.
Denise: You have to.
Amber: I don’t know that I’m successful yet – actually I do know that I’m successful.
Denise: You absolutely know you’re successful and I’m so glad you said that because that’s part of this too is changing the language, how we talk about each other.
Amber: It’s okay to be successful. .
Denise: It’s awesome to be successful. It is my ultimate goal, totally fine with it.
Amber: And it could change every day what your definition of it is.
Denise: Absolutely and you can have it; there’s no reason that you can’t have it. This is about knowledge; this about knowing when to zig versus zag and creating a community of support. And so that’s – we’re still new, we’re still new to the workforce. What are we, a generation and a half from Rosie the Riveter? We’re brand new and that’s why it’s always surprising to me that 13% of my audience is male; isn’t that a little interesting factoid? And I think it’s because they want to know too how are women solving these problems? How do they think about this differently than we think about it?
Amber: Or how do we help them?
Denise: And how do you work with women successfully? How do women work with men successfully? We all have to work together, so what does that look like? A little tip – I’ll share on that I’ve learned that I think is powerful is women share to do lists. I bump into you, oh my gosh how are you? Oh I’m so busy, we’re doing preschool and we’re doing this and we’re doing that and this is going on and I’m working with the church bazaar, we’re having a festival – we’re going down our massive to do list, right? That’s how women relate to each other. We commiserate over busyness.
Amber: We talk about our children.
Denise: Right. You know what men hear? She can’t manager her life, why do I think she can manage this deal? She’s already overwhelmed and she doesn’t know how to set boundaries, why are you doing all this stuff if you’re really serious about your career? And that is not at all how we think about it; we’re multitasking, we’re getting it all done.
Amber: We’re just holding the fort down man.
Denise: We’re making the magic happen and we support each other by sharing those stories and what we’re going through. But just that little change of language; when you get to work stop talking about all that you have to do because what do men do? They leave a whole day every week and go play golf. They come across as a life of ease; they’re managing this seamlessly and effortlessly. So when you’re looking for somebody to give a new project to do you give it to somebody that’s overwhelmed or do you give it to somebody that looks like he’s got his job on lock?
Amber: So you’re also a psychologist.
Denise: I am – I just play one on TV.
Amber: Well Denise I could talk to you all day and unfortunately we do have a time limit on these. But the best part about it is you can go to WatchHerWork.com and check out some more from Denise. Thank you so much for joining us today on The BusinessMakers Show, we really appreciate it Denise.
Denise: Thank you so much for having me, we love what you do.
Amber: Aw, same. Well, see you guys later, I’m Amber Ambrose and once again the is The BusinessMakers Show.
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