Level Up Leadership: Beth Wheat

Listen to the podcast (FULL TRANSCRIPT):

Level Up is a podcast for anyone interested in improving their leadership skills. The series is designed to help you get to know the leaders of Experian and gain insight into the skills needed to grow your career.

You can subscribe to Level Up Leadership on iTunes, Google Play, SoundCloud and Spotify.

Most recently, we spoke with Beth Wheat, Vice President of Global IT Transformation and Engagement at Experian. She is responsible for leading transformational productivity programs in support of Experian’s global technology organization, EITS including the EmPower project portfolio and the Smart Automation Center of Excellence which deploys intelligent automation technologies to the organization. Past roles at Experian include leadership of EITS communications and engagement and the Global Program Management Office. 

Here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Beth:

Don’t be afraid to build relationships with your leaders.
Beth herself really appreciates when her employees make the effort to do relationship building with her. More often than not, there seems to be a sort of divide between teams and leaders, and Beth advises that employees start making the extra effort; after all, relationship building is the best way to create trust.

The good ol’ “roll call” method is a good one to use during meetings.
Sometimes you don’t hear from the quieter voices during meetings. These voices could have the most brilliant ideas and solutions, but if it never gets out, there’s no moving forward. Beth does her best to ask for the input of every team member in the room. If she suspects someone held back from saying something, she will make the extra effort to email or talk to them one-on-one afterward.

“Defend the underdog.”
This was the philosophy Beth was raised on, and it has helped her become not only a leader but an advocate against important issues that trickle into the workplace. When you lend a helping hand to those who need it, there is more productivity, trust and general happiness—everyone benefits.

Reach farther.
“It’s easy to reach for the shelf that’s near you when you’re pulling together resources.” What Beth means by this is that leaders should think more broadly and think about the opportunities they could provide people who aren’t typically considered for them. It’s hard to come across innovation when you are constantly leaning on the same people from the same backgrounds.

Pain and stress are fleeting.
As Beth pointed out, the things that might feel very painful and stressful in the moment will not seem that way when you look at it from the perspective of a week, month or year from now. Keeping this in mind will help you push through the moments of hardship and move forward.

Find the intersections between what you want and what your team wants.
This is a good place for all leaders to start because you won’t inspire your team to achieve their goals unless it’s something they also feel motivated to reach. Take some time see your team members’ visions and find a way to align them with yours and the organization’s. When you see and understand what they want and need and assure them you will work hard to deliver, they will trust you and deliver right back.

Don’t be afraid to ask for the next thing.
Most of Beth’s promotions resulted from a conversation where she expressed she was ready for change and more responsibilities—the next thing. Sometimes, you don’t need to have the awkward promotion talk; sometimes, it just takes letting your manager know what you want and what you’re ready for, and letting them help you get there. Beth even advises start stepping up and taking on those extra responsibilities before you even get the promotion to show your manager you’re ready.

We were so happy to have the opportunity to chat with Beth for Level Up.

Check out interviews with other Experian leaders.

Full Transcript

Mike: Hey everybody. Welcome to The Level Up Leadership Podcast. My name is Mike Delgado.
Patty: My name is Patty Guevarra.
Mike: This podcast is designed to help you get to know the leaders here at Experian and also gain insight into leadership skills and traits needed to grow our careers.
Patty: In this podcast we’ll talk mentorship, career navigation, handling rejection, work life balance, mental health, diversity and inclusion and so much more.
Mike: We hope you enjoy the show.
Patty: 00:01 Today, we’re speaking with Beth Wheat, vice president of global IT transformation and engagement at Experian. So Beth, you’re the VP of global IT transformation and engagement. So can you just tell us a little bit about how you got to that position and how you got to Experian?
Beth: 02:16 Sure. I’ve been with Experian for almost nine years now, and I … Well actually, I worked years ago for TRW. And so some of the people that I knew from then were still here. And at that time, they put out a bid for a project, a client centricity project. And so the people that I knew that were involved had mentioned it to me, so I bid on the contract, and I won the bid, but they actually invited me to join as an FTE instead of an independent contractor. So that was how I came back into the organization, and that was as part of what was called the Global Program Management, or GPMO back then. So I was in that team for a while, and then I led that team for a while. And then when Barry Libenson, our global CIO, joined, I reported to him, and we talked about technology transformation, which I was very interested in, but with an emphasis on the people side of the equation.
Beth: 03:20 So for a few years, I worked on programs that were specific to the people part of our IT transformation, and then just recently, have picked up in addition to that the Empower, which is our Lean Six Sigma program, as well as our smart automation team in Costa Rica and the UK, which is robotic process automation. So all of that to me, while it’s all technology related, it also still deals with the people side of change, which is really what I am passionate about and excited about. So I’ve loved every assignment. It’s been a great journey.
Mike: 03:59 And you’ve been involved seeing the transformation here, I mean, over the last nine years.
Beth: 04:04 Yes.
Mike: 04:05 All the big changes that have happened-
Beth: 04:06 It’s true.
Mike: 04:07 Internally.
Beth: 04:08 Yes, yeah, and I’ve been really grateful for being in global roles all that time, because I think everyone sees the changes. But at the global perspective, it’s just like that aerial view of the big steam ship turning, and you see it actually, the pace of change accelerating, and it’s been very exciting to be a part of.
Mike: 04:32 I think it’s so hard for big companies to change when you have very complex structures, and we’re a huge global company. And for me to actually see these changes happen, especially in the last four years, all these big changes, it’s very impressive for me to see, wow, from the top, how this all happened. Can you kind of share a little bit about kind of your journey as you began working with Barry and helping lead this transformation at Experian?
Beth: 05:02 Sure. Barry just brought in so much vision and energy and was operating as CIO at a level that we really hadn’t had before. And I think that was all part of Experian’s identity shift from being financial services company to really being a data and tech company. And so to me, Barry was the perfect match for where we were, and I can still picture him on … I had the chance to talk to him on his first day in the afternoon, and I can picture the schematic that he had drawn on his whiteboard of what he was envisioning, which is really pretty close to what we have with Project Nike. I mean, it’s evolved. But the foundations of it were something that he had thought of in the very beginning.
Beth: 06:01 So then it was a matter of him building out teams that he wanted to bring to help us go along that journey. And then of course at Experian, because we operate in a very federated way, building the relationships I think for all of us in the ITS, a big part of it is building the relationships as much as if not more than delivering on the technology.
Mike: 06:27 Can you talk a little bit about that relationship building? Because at the global level, you’re overseeing so much and seeing what’s happening in different regions, and then to your point, to really make change, not only does it require the vision that Barry brought, but also implementing it requires relationship building.
Beth: 06:44 Mm-hmm (affirmative). And I think relationship building is key to everything, and it requires recognizing that everyone has a different perspective. Even two people that are sitting side by side on the same team working on the same thing bring a different perspective, and that’s a good thing. So the building of relationships takes patience and some care and feeding to make sure that you’re taking the time to understand those different perspectives. Because often, people won’t just share it with you on the first meeting. You really have to invest and get to know people from a variety of different angles to really understand how they see things. So I think that’s really key, and having empathy for those different perspectives and gently guiding people in the direction as opposed to setting down any kind of mandates. That doesn’t work in our culture, and actually with what we know today versus 20 years ago about diversity of thought and how damaging the mandate mentality can be to really finding innovation, I think there was a lot of wisdom in the way the course was set for experienced transformation.
Patty: 08:03 You mentioned that while you were here, a new CIO, Barry, came on. Can you tell us more about your experience with having new management and if you have any tips for people who are experiencing that as well?
Beth: 08:15 Oh, that’s a good question. I personally really like change, and if it doesn’t happen for me organically every few years, I’ll go and make it happen. And I’ve been lucky that it has. So I always enjoy getting used to a new leader. I think it’s probably very similar to the last conversation, which is learning about their perspectives, but taking your time with it, because they can’t really just tell you this is … Some people actually do start by saying, “This is how I work,” right?
Patty: 08:49 Right.
Beth: 08:50 But usually you’ll find that some of that’s true, and then there’s other nuances to it. But taking the time to understand their perspectives and really not necessarily always talking directly about the task at hand. So putting things into a broader context I think is a good way to get to people’s motivations and things that they might not tell you, things that might be a little bit more subliminal. So it’s really just the same relationship building question. I think as a manager of people myself, I appreciate when my employees make that effort to do the relationship building, and of course I do that as the leader, but I think most leaders would be very open to that, and that would really be the tip, is just take the time to get to know one another and be able to trust.
Mike: 09:47 I love how the way you’re talking about you love diversity of thought, you want different opinions on ways to go, and I’m kind of curious about your approach to kind of drawing those different opinions out, especially for those that maybe are more quiet. They’re listening about maybe a direction or a vision, but they have a different viewpoint, but maybe they don’t feel comfortable sharing it. And you kind of, you kind of shared the empathy part, being sensitive to other people in the room, other people’s feelings, and I’m kind of wondering things you’ve done to kind of draw out those other opinions from maybe the quieter folks.
Beth: 10:24 There’s a lot of research now about introverts and that introverts are often sitting there with the best answer, but we roll right over and don’t get it all the time as we could. And I hope I do this. I mean, I always feel like I can learn and improve myself, but especially because having worked globally, most of the meetings that I have are via Webex, just trying to make sure everybody has a chance to speak and using the individual roll call, which sometimes can seem tedious, but making sure that everybody has that opportunity. And even as I’m saying this out loud, I’m thinking, oh, I was on a call today and I should have done that. So we can all improve, but I think that is really key. And the other thing is being willing to put things in writing.
Beth: 11:18 So if you didn’t hear from someone and you have that hunch that there was more that they had to say or more they might have thought about, sending them an e-mail or a note. The other thing I’ve noticed too is that especially when we’re not all speaking English as a first language and there’s different backgrounds on the call, sometimes it’s a matter of people being concerned that they won’t be understood. So that’s another reason why a follow-up e-mail or even IM. Even during a meeting, I might IM someone and just say, “What are you thinking about this?” And sometimes they’d rather IM me back than say it out loud on the call. And I respect that.
Mike: 11:58 I love that, because I mean, I think it takes a special skill to kind of nurture those relationships, especially through Webex, because you don’t see them everyday, there’s sometimes a language barrier, you’re talking through sometimes static on a phone call, right? And kind of building trust, having that empathy, like I want to hear more perspectives, or you’re sensing this person’s being really quiet, but I really want to hear what they have to say, and doing that IM and finding those channels, those ways to reach out to people to where they’re comfortable sharing feedback to you.
Beth: 12:35 Yes, yes. And so many of our social cues are visual, and even I think energetic in a sense. Just being in the room, even without expression, you sense how people are doing energetically. And without that, you do have a big blind spot. So I feel like you have to have compensatory techniques to deal with that, and I like to practice them as best I can, but I know that’s something I can always do a better job with.
Mike: 13:07 How do you deal with as a certain vision or plan is put in place and you receive feedback, people have shared different points of view, you’ve taken everything in, you’ve let everyone know that they’ve been heard, you’re displaying that empathy, but maybe there is somebody who is very strong in their opinion that the direction you’re headed is not really the right way to go.
Beth: 13:33 I, and of course that happens with some regularity, and a lot in the technical world, right? Because there are … It’s engineering, and people get very passionate about their designs and things like that. I think the best way to deal with that is to try to do it if you can incrementally. And so assure that person that they’ve been heard, make sure they understand the reasons why you might have chosen a different direction. But take that direction in incremental steps, and get their buy in along the way and there may be a time when in fact you’re going to take a sidestep based on their feedback. But at some point, all of us have to recognize that our exact vision, we’re not going to be able to lay the tracks and have things be exactly the way we would like them to be.
Beth: 14:26 And I think the collegiate nature of people that thrive in Experian’s culture are able to deal with that. I don’t know that I’ve really had anybody just flat out say, “I don’t want to be here anymore because I didn’t get to implement my design.” But I do think being respectful about it, bringing people along in small increments, it would be my first play to deal with something like that.
Mike: 14:55 What has helped you be so empathetic and to be a good listener and just be skilled at picking up those subtle verbal cues or non-verbal cues in meetings that you go, I need to follow up with this person, because I sense that they’re not on the same page with me on this issue?
Beth: 15:19 Well, I hope that I am all those things, for sure, because I think that’s definitely what I aspire to be. The thing is for me personally, and I don’t know if this is a blessing or a curse, but I honestly love people, and I like everybody. My first inclination is to just like everybody, and I think people are fascinating. And so that’s part of it is that I really want everybody to be comfortable and successful, and so that means in order to do that, I need to get to know them and I consider their feelings. I’m sure there were times when that hasn’t happened or I haven’t given that appearance, but that’s in my heart of hearts, that’s what I want, and it’s why I enjoy working here. It’s why I like taking the time to build those relationships and to lead with influence and to operate in the very collegiate way that we do.
Beth: 16:20 I like that much better than … There’s some people that would really prefer rules. Can’t we just always do it this way? And there are days when I would too. But for the most part, I’d rather work through the complications that our very humanity focused environment brings, because I think it’s so much richer, and I really think it’s paying the goods, if you will, in terms of our rate of innovation and getting us to where we want to be as a company.
Patty: 16:51 Just curious, your love for people, did you get that from anywhere? Were you raised like that, or were you just always like that?
Beth: 16:58 Well, I think … I have three sisters. We all had to … We lived in tight spaces and we had to learn how to get along. I’m sure that’s part of it. And I think maybe perhaps some of it is innate, but if you … I also think it’s how human beings are hard wired. We’re social creatures. Even the most introverted of us-
Patty: 17:25 Need some kind of interaction.
Beth: 17:26 Need yeah-
Patty: 17:26 Yeah.
Beth: 17:27 And a sense of belonging, and so I think … And it pays back dividends. I don’t think I’ve ever approached it from that perspective, but all of the things that I’ve been able to accomplish in my career have been as a result of great teams and relationships that I’m hugely indebted to.
Patty: 17:50 Yeah, I always thought networking was weird because people are like, “Oh, your relationships with people will benefit you.” I’m like, “Why would I start a friendship based off what I benefit from?”
Mike: 18:00 Yeah, that’s right.
Beth: 18:01 Exactly.
Patty: 18:02 Yeah, I get what you mean. It’s very beneficial. I feel like it opens a lot of doors afterwards.
Beth: 18:06 Yes. Yeah, and you don’t usually go into it from that. I think that’s kind of the old school perception of networking, and there are … Sometimes you go to conferences and you have people approaching you and you just get that feeling that that’s what it is.
Patty: 18:20 They’re throwing their business cards at you.
Mike: 18:22 Yeah.
Beth: 18:24 Exactly. I know, who does that any more? But they do. Yeah. But, so I think, but here, it’s just so different, because there’s usually a lot of great organic reasons to connect with people because of the way we interact. And then the work that’s been done to create our ERGs and our networks and where we’re being encouraged to branch out even more and learn about people’s backgrounds and cultures, and that’s phenomenal to me. It just, it adds a whole other layer to the way we network that’s, again, so human and I think really plays into our diversity and inclusion agenda.
Patty: 19:06 Right. So because you mentioned our ERGs and D&I, I just want to tell you, reading your bio, I was so excited, because your prior experience, you worked with a non-profit that dealt with diversity, poverty, and anti-bullying. And then you got a certificate, or a teaching credential for multicultural education and communication, and now you’re an ambassador for women in Experian.
Beth: 19:33 Yes.
Patty: 19:33 So you not only talk the talk, you walk the walk.
Mike: 19:36 You won a fan-
Beth: 19:38 Oh, that’s good.
Mike: 19:39 Which is a big deal.
Patty: 19:39 A D&I fan. So I’d like to know more on why you’re so invested on being an advocate. It’s very prominent throughout your resume that this is really meaningful to you, and how that advocacy benefited your professional career.
Beth: 19:57 I think some of that was in part how I was raised, because I just happened to have parents who were very much invested in civil rights. They came from that era. They were very much on that side of things. Our household was always filled with a lot of diverse people. And so, and I remember my mom telling me, “Always defend the underdog,” and when I went off to school, I was always defending the underdog.
Mike: 20:32 I love that philosophy.
Patty: 20:32 Yeah.
Beth: 20:33 Yeah. I do too.
Mike: 20:34 Beautiful.
Beth: 20:35 And so that was a big influence. And then when my children went to school, I saw bullying first hand, because I volunteered in their classrooms and things like that, so. And it was so shocking to me really, and it kind of brought back memories from when I was in school and I had to defend the underdogs from the bullies. So that’s kind of the theme. And then the work that I did with The Lighthouse Project, which I just love to this day, was to try to get to the root of that and give children tools to basically have empathy for and help bullies not be bullies, while at the same time standing up for themselves. And I think that still … We didn’t solve the problem, but we did make some improvements and we drove some community awareness.
Beth: 21:33 So that’s really where the inspiration came from I think. And then of course, when you bring that into the corporations, it’s not certainly at a place like Experian. It’s not at all a matter of having underdogs or bullies, but people who are not heard as much as they could be. And that’s why I love our D&I programming.
Patty: 21:56 I love that because you’re teaching children not only to be a good leader and to value diversity. You’re kind of just teaching them to be a good human.
Beth: 22:01 Yes, exactly. Yeah.
Patty: 22:02 Yeah, and we need that in our leadership.
Beth: 22:05 Yes, and it isn’t any different here. But it’s just at a different scale, right?
Patty: 22:12 Right, right. Can you tell us more about your We for We campaign?
Beth: 22:16 Sure. So this was an idea that was formed collaboratively with the women in EITS who I pull together on a regular basis, which are kind of the local ambassadors for women in Experian in EITS. And I stepped into the ambassador role, I think it’s been about a year now, and the first thing we started talking about was the fact that to only bring women into the group is, in a way, the opposite of inclusion. So we wanted to get more men involved in the conversation. And we wanted to leverage the great work that’s been done with the networks in ERGs with other population as well. And so the dialogue was around, how do we do that and not make it be like cheesy networking, here’s why this is [inaudible 00:23:09]. So it was, we now can identify people who have identified themselves as being either allies or affiliates or belongers to these groups. So now we can find people that may have had a walk of life or an experience or a lifestyle that’s very different from our own, and we know where they are, and we can sit down and have a conversation.
Beth: 23:33 So the We for We is on the back of a UN, a United Nations program, called HeforShe, which was men pledging their support for women. And we said, “Well, we want to pledge our support … We want men and women to support their”-
Patty: 23:49 Each other.
Mike: 23:49 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Beth: 23:50 Yes, exactly. So let’s make it completely non-binary. And the goal of We for We, which anybody can participate in, we would love it, is for people to … You take your selfie with the hashtag and put your picture on the team site. But then, you go have a conversation with someone from one of the networks or ERGs that you don’t already know, or even if you do already know them, you say, “Why are you part? What inspired you to be part of the Namaste Group?”, or whatever it is. “And what’s one thing you would like us to know about that group? And then, what’s one thing I could do to support you or that group?” And we’ve had some panel discussions with people on some webinars that I’ve run already, and we’ve had some really heartfelt conversations that have been very impactful.
Beth: 24:43 And so that is really what was the inspiration for We for We, and we have a webinar coming up with Barry next week to further talk about that, and we’ll have some other panelists. And so we hope that people join the movement. It’s all kind of designed to lead up to International Women’s Week, which is coming up in early March. But it’s something that we hope will continue. There was a conversation that was really meaningful in one of the sessions that I held in the UK, and afterward, I received an e-mail from someone who said, “I never talk about work at home, and today, I went home and I talked to my family about what I learned in that session.” So that alone to me, if there was one conversation that was that compelling, it made it worth it.
Patty: 25:38 It’s impact.
Beth: 25:38 Yeah.
Patty: 25:40 Yeah. First of all, amazing campaign. I’m really excited for that to happen and hope to support you however we can.
Beth: 25:46 Good. This should help, right?
Patty: 25:47 Right.
Mike: 25:47 Yeah, that’s right.
Patty: 25:50 Right, totally. So I love the questions, the what inspires you, how can I help you, what do you want me to know about the culture and whatnot. So as a woman in tech, if you were talking to a man, how can he support you?
Beth: 26:03 Oh, we have this conversation, and so that’s what’s great is we’ve had amazing men join our calls. And the support that we really look for is just making sure that people are very open when they think about who to include in things. It’s easy to reach for the shelf that’s near you when you’re pulling together resources, so asking people to take a step back and think more broadly … And not, again, it’s all of us. It’s women, yes, because we have some work to do, especially in technology to even out our numbers and be more represented. But it’s really anyone that shows the potential and the passion and the desire that wouldn’t normally be your first choice. So we just ask to think outside the box.
Beth: 26:57 And the men in our organization are amazingly open to doing that, and they, one person in particular had the idea that we should have internal apprenticeships, and that he would be willing to have that on his team for women or men, but certainly for women who, especially for some of the super valuable technical skills that are hot in the market right now. Let’s get more of our women trained up and exposure to those capabilities. So that’s what we would ask. But honestly, just in asking them to come to the table, they have even more ideas than what we would be able to ask them for. So just being there and participating and being aware.
Patty: 27:44 No pressure if you can’t think of anything on the spot-
Beth: 27:46 Uh oh.
Patty: 27:46 But do you have an anecdote of maybe something that showed you true allyship during your career?
Beth: 27:54 An anecdote for true allyship. Well, I can think of … so when I went to school for engineering classes, there were usually … I would be either the only woman, or there might be one or two other women, and it was usually the same ones. And so I remember being in classes where professors wouldn’t ask us to answer questions. If they were bringing people into labs, they wouldn’t invite us. If we made a comment, they didn’t even hear us. And this was a long time ago. I think things have gotten a lot better. But I would say, I remember one of them was a really close friend, and then this other woman we got to know. But we stood together. We also helped each other with testing our code and making sure that we were all being successful.
Beth: 28:55 So that’s probably the closest business related anecdote that I could think of. But having grown up with three sisters, I do tend to have had a lot of great sisterhood type experiences. I think that just the people that I’ve known have been great connectors, and that’s been really helpful. And then as I said, I think the sponsorship that I’ve had here from a lot of men at Experian in the time that I’ve been here these nine years has been really helpful and appreciated too.
Patty: 29:34 How are you teaching leadership and all these concepts of diversity and inclusion to your children?
Beth: 29:40 Well, my children are big now.
Patty: 29:41 Oh, right.
Beth: 29:45 I hope just by example, but I’ll tell you, they both work in service, and they both serve underserved populations and are doing amazing things. So I mean, I think they’ve way exceeded my contributions, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that.
Patty: 30:04 You did your job.
Mike: 30:04 Yeah.
Beth: 30:05 I’d like to think so. It could’ve been luck.
Patty: 30:08 Right.
Mike: 30:10 You mentioned mentorship, and I think that these different ERGs, the WeForWe movement, are awesome ways to network, to build relationships with people that they don’t see every single day, especially those that are in different regions or in different business lines. And I was curious about one way to take extra steps in our career or to move up in our career is to have a mentor to help guide us, and I was wondering if you can kind of talk about the role of mentorship that has played in your life and advice for those listening in who feel like you know what? I want to mentor.
Beth: 30:46 Mm-hmm (affirmative), yes, and I think that is such an important concept, and I’ve definitely been very fortunate to have leveraged a number of mentors, professionally and personally. I think the thing is, we have really great resources at Experian for, there’s mentor places in Zoom where you can sign up if you want to be a mentor, or if you want to have a mentor, and there’s great materials out there to guide those conversations. So I would encourage people to look there. But you can also, I like to think about … There used to be a book called The Three Minute Manager. I like to think about the three minute mentor. Don’t think that it has to be a big formal thing. Any conversation where you go and ask for advice or you give someone advice is a mini mentorship. And it can have profound impact on people.
Beth: 31:40 So I’ve had mentors that were helping me just through a project because I knew that they had that expertise, and I would just touch base if I had a question or something I wasn’t sure about. And then I’ve also had formal mentors. And then as part of EBN, I’ve had many mentees. And I have mentees that I hear from them for the year, and then I don’t really hear from them again. But I have others that I’ll hear from every once in a while and that’s great too. So I think I would encourage everybody, think of it a three minute mentor. Just go do it. Just go do one quick one, see how it works for you, and then see if you want to invest in something more formal or structured. But the way Experian operates, again in such a collegiate way, there’s no reason why every one of us doesn’t have at least one person that they can say, “That person has mentored me.”
Patty: 32:38 Right. As far as formal mentorship goes, what should mentees be looking for in mentors, and even vice versa, what do you look for when mentees ask you, “Hey, Beth, can you mentor me?”
Beth: 32:52 Well, if someone asks me if I can mentor them, that’s a match to me, because they saw something in me that they think will be of value to them. And so I’m willing to have the conversation and try to figure out what that is and help them along the way. I think when someone, when I’m assigned a mentee through something like EBN, it’s the same process of really just getting to know them and then I try to figure out what aspects of what I’ve done or what I am doing could be useful to them. And here at Experian, honestly a lot of it is that global perspective, because I can usually say, “Hey, I know someone in Brazil that’s doing just what you’re doing,” and they’re like, “Really?” So I think that’s … I just try to look at okay, if all the cards that I have in play, and here’s what this person is doing. How can I help them?
Patty: 33:50 Right. It’s cool being able to connect different people together.
Mike: 33:53 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Beth: 33:54 It’s wonderful.
Patty: 33:55 Great.
Beth: 33:55 Yeah, I love it. Yeah, it’s a lot of fun.
Mike: 34:00 You have a very unique role being in global transformation and I thought it was interesting that you said at the beginning of the podcast that you love change. And I’ll say that sometimes, I’ll say that, that I love change, but then when change happens, I’m freaking out. So I was wondering if you could kind of talk about your love of change and do you ever deal with, oh no, this is going to have a huge impact on my job, or I have a new boss now and I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to do … I like my previous boss. And can you talk about those big changes that happen in life or at our jobs and how you’ve kind of gone through those transitions and then coming out saying, “Yeah, change is awesome.”
Beth: 34:55 Well, it might just be because I’ve been working for a long time, and I have great experience to tell me that even if a change looks negative in the beginning, there’s something on the other side that’s going to be really good. And if it isn’t, if you find that you end up in a department or you have a new boss or there’s something that isn’t a fit, the best thing to do is just be really honest with yourself and then make a different change happen. Be proactive about keeping yourself in a place where you can find your interest and your passion and feel like you’re valued and contributing. So I was trying to think of … The negative changes that I think of in my life have just been life events that happened, like deaths or things like that that are inevitable and unpreventable, and you just have to get through it. But professionally, I really, I can’t think of a change that in retrospect at least was negative.
Patty: 36:10 Right.
Mike: 36:10 Right. Well I love the attitude. I was actually listening to a podcast, Jocko Willink, he has a whole thing about good. I don’t know if you ever saw the YouTube video-
Beth: 36:18 Yes.
Mike: 36:18 Where he’s talking about all these things that can go wrong, like you don’t get budget approval for this, the product got extended. And he’s like, “Good. You can learn from this. Good. You can learn from that.” And that’s kind of what you’re saying-
Beth: 36:30 It’s true.
Mike: 36:31 Even through these really difficult transitions where you get assigned a product you didn’t want or maybe you’re reporting to a different leader that maybe you didn’t want to, this is a learning opportunity.
Beth: 36:41 Yes. Yeah, that’s exactly right. And it is interesting to think about how what can feel very painful or stressful in the moment, once you get to the perspective that a week from now, a month from now, a year from now, it’s not going to seem that way. It helps you push through it in the moment, and also to look for the good, for sure.
Mike: 37:05 Mm-hmm (affirmative). Can you also talk about in your role, you are working with teams around the world, and working on these huge transformation projects, and good advice for those who are having to work with groups that don’t necessarily report to you, but you need to give them direction and they need to report back to you how things are going. Because that can be very, very tricky when it’s like, you’re not their direct boss, but yet you’re assigned to basically make sure this thing happens.
Beth: 37:38 Yeah, leading by influence, and I think it’s a skill everyone should try to hone. And it goes back to what we said at the very beginning. It’s about cultivating great relationships with people, helping them see the value. We say the WIIFM, or the what’s in it for me, but in some ways, that feels sometimes a little bit shallow to me. I don’t think people want that so much as to feel that they’re an important part of something bigger, which I guess in a sense is what’s in it for them, but I think most people really want to understand the strategic value, to some degree the business case behind what it is that you’re asking them to do. But they want to feel a part of the team, and they want to do the right thing. So I think learning how to cultivate relationships and then appealing to that side of people, and then also being willing to do your part of the other half of the equation.
Beth: 38:42 So if someone needs something from you, then you go the extra mile and you make sure that you’re keeping your commitments and things like that. And I think that’s what helps people feel comfortable following in an unofficial leader.
Mike: 38:57 Can you give some, I guess, maybe some practical tips for those who are maybe, this is their first time having to lead by influence and having to direct a project, get other people involved that they’re not reporting to them, this is really their first time at it, and they’re listening to you and they’re like, “Yeah, I need to establish good relationships. I’m not quite sure how to get started with that.”
Beth: 39:24 These are great questions. I think you have to be patient, and again, nurture the relationship, take time to get to know what the other person has on their plate, and find those intersections between what they want and what you want and start there. There’s not … This is all very human, and I don’t think that there’s a methodology to it or a framework or a checklist. But it’s really just authentic communication, helping people see your vision, maybe even more importantly seeing theirs, understanding what they want and need and making sure that they know that you’re going to attend to that as much as what you want.
Mike: 40:13 So that’s great advice. I mean, it’s so funny, because there’s so many things in life where there is no map. We want a guide book. We want like, give me the checklist.
Beth: 40:22 Yes.
Mike: 40:22 And, so I know what to do. But to your point, a lot of this is like, well, building strong relationships, that takes time, it takes patience. It’s getting to know people. And some people are going to be more introverted, more quiet, and it’s going to take more time. Some are going to be very, very open and wanting to work with you. Others are going to be like, what does this person want? I’ve been burned in the past.
Beth: 40:44 Right. It’s funny because we have … You can take the Myers-Briggs and you can do the DISC, and we’ve all analyzed ourselves and each other to the nth degree. But the truth is … stereotypes and cultural traits, all that. The truth is every human being is such a complex milieu of all those things that even if you know all that, and someday our ocular glasses will be flashing that over your heads and we’ll know exactly what you are, but it’s still not going to … We still have to get to know each other, because human beings are so rich and complex. And so I think that’s why … The methodologies are good, and they’re useful and helpful. But the one to one interpersonal connection is in my mind really where the rubber hits the road, and it just does take some time and some willingness to be open and authentic.
Mike: 41:48 I think that’s really key, because it’s funny, because when I first met you, you were just so warm, and I just, we immediately connected. And you’re so open about things and you just, we start chatting, and to me, that’s a very unique individual. Because not everybody is like that. Because some of us are more on-guard. We’re more protected. It’s harder for us to open up. And I feel like you are just very warm-
Beth: 42:18 Well that’s good.
Mike: 42:18 And I was wondering if you, I mean, I guess my question is advice for those of us who aren’t as warm. Maybe we’ve been burned in the past, we’re more reserved for a lot of good reasons. But we want to take steps to being a little bit more open so we can establish some relationships a little bit faster.
Beth: 42:41 Mm-hmm (affirmative). That’s a great question too. I think it really is though all about being authentic. And so how you show up in the world, we need you. We need people of all those different varieties to be the way they’re going to be. I think … But it does benefit someone who’s a bit more guarded to learn how to forge those connections. And I think you just have to practice with what is a more comfortable style for you. So in some ways, connecting with people on the phone can be easier I think if you’re more guarded. And honestly, I’m actually technically an introvert. I’m usually right in the middle, but it’s not … I don’t love to go to conferences and just try to start talking to people. But I love, like when you and I met, we just met one to one. Small groups are great for me. So I think recognizing where you’re comfortable and then using that.
Beth: 43:49 A long time ago, there used to be this systems programmer who became a great friend of mine, but he was so extremely shy that for the most part, we were just … It wasn’t even called IM back then, but we were just doing the equivalent of instant messaging across the operating system. Because he really just didn’t want to ever talk to anybody. He loved machines. So, but that’s fine. He figured out how to connect, and that’s what I would say is if you would like to welcome more people into your sphere, you don’t have to … You don’t want to be inauthentic, and you don’t want to try to push yourself into a style that doesn’t feel comfortable to you. Your style is a part of who you are, so figure out how to work with that.
Mike: 44:36 Have you noticed throughout your career, because you mentioned you’re more introverted. You’re right there at that line between extrovert and introvert, but you tend to lean more towards introverted. I’m like that too. I like one on one conversations. And I’m wondering, were you always like that, or earlier in your career, were you more extroverted, and you kind of started becoming more introverted?
Beth: 44:58 No, I don’t think I’ve really changed in that regard.
Mike: 45:04 Because I feel like sometimes in a global role, you’re almost forced to … You’re leading big calls, you’ve got to connect people, and that’s a very much an extroverted activity.
Beth: 45:15 Oddly enough, though, I think when you are put in a position to lead a call or, for example, speak at a conference or what have you, that doesn’t feel like a challenge to my introvert self to me. I think it might have something to do with a position power. So you’re given the assignment to lead this call, and you’re leading it, and it’s not the same as going to that room of 50 people-
Patty: 45:44 And interrupt.
Beth: 45:44 That you don’t know and start talking to them.
Patty: 45:47 That’s a good way to look at it.
Beth: 45:49 Yeah.
Patty: 45:49 Yeah.
Beth: 45:50 So hopefully for introverts out there, if that makes you nervous about leading a big call or giving a presentation, it’s actually more, it’s like a broadcast as opposed to a one to one, and broadcasting actually is fairly impersonal when you think about it.
Patty: 46:07 I’ll have to keep that in mind.
Beth: 46:07 Because you’re just talking to the masses.
Mike: 46:12 That’s a good metaphor. It’s like the DJ with the microphone.
Beth: 46:13 Exactly. Or the podcast.
Mike: 46:15 Or the podcast.
Patty: 46:18 Or the podcast. That’s very true. Just to pivot the conversation a little bit, I would love to know how you as a leader would want to be approached by a team member looking to be promoted.
Mike: 46:29 Oh that’s a good question, Patty. That’s a good one. This is a hard one.
Beth: 46:33 My team is probably listening to this, right? They’re taking notes.
Mike: 46:37 Actually it’s funny, because that’s come up in some of our ERG conversations about stepping up, declaring what you want. That’s been a message to a lot of our employees. They’re being encouraged, if you know you want to go a certain pathway in your career, you need to let your manager know, let your leader know.
Patty: 46:57 Don’t wait to be tapped on the shoulder.
Mike: 46:59 Yeah, and that doesn’t mean that you’re going to get a yes, but at least it puts a thought in their mind-
Patty: 47:03 Right.
Mike: 47:04 And conversations can happen there.
Beth: 47:06 Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah, absolutely. Pretty early on in my career, and this was back in my TRW days, one of my managers said, “Don’t ever be afraid to ask for what you want.” And he didn’t mean a promotion, but when I was ready, and I told you, I get restless. I have this three year expiration date, and I have to do something else, that when that happens, go to your boss and say, “I’m ready for more. I want to do more. I want to do something different.” And that is, for me, what has lead to promotion. I don’t think I’ve ever asked for a promotion or a raise. I have said, “I’m ready for the next thing.” And when you’ve been delivering on the thing that you have, and your boss can count on you for that, generally, your boss has a drawer full of things that need doing that they can give to you and put something more on your plate or give you something new altogether. And those are the things that typically lead to promotion.
Beth: 48:14 I think if you … Now sometimes, what somebody really wants is they want the promotion. They want to make more money, or they want a more senior level. So be preparing yourself for what that looks like. So start, if you want to go from manager to director, watch what directors do and how that’s different from what you are doing, and start incrementally doing that. Start being that. And then sometimes you might have to point that out to your boss, but a lot of times, they’re going to notice. So that’s how I would do it. I think there’s probably a lot of different ways to do it, but any time somebody comes to me and says, “I want more challenge. I want more stretch,” I have respect for that. It usually helps me, and it’s good for them and good for the company.
Patty: 49:08 I really like that advice of observing and them implementing, because it’s kind of like giving your promotion to yourself-
Beth: 49:13 Exactly.
Patty: 49:14 Before you even have to ask.
Beth: 49:14 Exactly.
Patty: 49:16 That’s very cool.
Beth: 49:17 Yeah.
Patty: 49:17 Good advice.
Beth: 49:20 One of your podcasts was with Genevieve, and she was talking about how she just made up her own …
Patty: 49:26 Trailblazer.
Mike: 49:26 Yeah, that’s right.
Beth: 49:28 Yeah, exactly.
Beth: 49:29 Exactly, and I love that.
Patty: 49:30 Yeah, she was like, promotion? What’s that? I’m going to make my own position.
Beth: 49:33 Yeah.
Patty: 49:34 I love it.
Mike: 49:35 And that takes an element of vision, because sometimes I’ve heard people being asked, people that are ready to move on, like you said, there’s usually for you that three year mark where you’re like, okay, I’m ready to do something else. But something in that question comes back of, what do you want to do? You’ve been doing this role for such a long period of time, or three years. You’re doing great in your job, and your leader asks you, “What do you want to do?” And that’s a really hard question to answer.
Beth: 50:03 Yes, it can be, right? And there are people who love doing what they do, and that’s all they ever want to do, and they’re great at it, and they keep their skills sharp. And that’s fine. That is absolutely fine. So, but for people that do want to grow in any way, whether it’s to learn new skills or for the purpose of moving up, if you will, then you need to be able to answer that question. And I think you want to look at what grabs your interest and what you have passion around, which isn’t always going to be every aspect of your job.
Beth: 50:43 But there will be elements of it, and to me, that’s always the inkling of, okay, I get really excited about this particular topic, and so I’m going to focus on that a little bit more, and I’m going to grow the time that I’m able to spend on that wheel, have a lot of … We have a lot of independence, when you think about it, in terms of what we work on every day. So go to the things that you gravitate toward, because that’s what you’re going to be engaged with and really good at and generally, that’s what’s going to lead you into the next bigger thing for you.
Patty: 51:16 I think that’s something that’s a realistic way to look at your job too. You’re not going to enjoy every part of your job every single day, but there are going to be those things that give you more passion and more energy. I think that’s a nice way to look at it, because people my age especially, I feel like they’re just like, I want my job to mean something. I need to be passionate all the time. So it’s always nice to be grounded and remember that’s not always going to be the case.
Beth: 51:40 Yes, exactly.
Patty: 51:42 Yeah. We are coming up on our hour, so-
Mike: 51:44 What?
Patty: 51:44 Do you have any last questions? No, I know.
Mike: 51:46 What? We need to do a two hour podcast. I do. So part of leading innovation and transformation means sometimes going with your gut on something. You don’t have enough data points to support an idea. It means sometimes not asking for permission, it’s just you believe something to be true and needing to move forward, and I was wondering if you can kind of speak to that.
Beth: 52:16 I go with my gut, and I ask for feedback. So I have so many brilliant people around me that I’ll do a gut check. Because I think our guts can mislead us.
Patty: 52:34 Yeah, for sure.
Beth: 52:35 So I think at some point, we all have to take some risk. But what I really have learned at Experian and what I like about it is that there’s always someone that you can go to and say, “Hey, this is what I’m thinking of.” And again, diversity of thought. Try to find someone that’s not on your team or the person that doesn’t always agree with you, and go to that person for the gut check before you take that leap. Now maybe I’m a little risk averse in that way, but yeah, I think-
Mike: 53:08 That’s my wife you just named right there.
Beth: 53:09 Oh really?
Mike: 53:09 Doesn’t always agree with me.
Beth: 53:09 Well that’s a good thing.
Mike: 53:12 She’s my gut check for sure.
Beth: 53:13 Yeah, yeah. That’s good. Opposites attract, right?
Mike: 53:17 That’s right.
Patty: 53:17 Yeah, they do.
Beth: 53:18 For a reason, yes.
Patty: 53:19 Definitely.
Mike: 53:19 That’s great.
Patty: 53:20 So do you have any last words for our emerging leaders listening to your episode?
Beth: 53:25 I, well first of all, thank you so much. This has been really a lot of fun, and nothing at all what I expected, so great lines of questioning. I just would say, if you’re at Experian listening to this, or even, because I know this goes external, people who have those leadership aspirations, at Experian, you’re in a really great place. So first of all, there’s a plug to working here. Great leaders-
Mike: 53:49 Experian.com/careers.
Beth: 53:54 Exactly. I mean, so many amazing leaders to learn from here. But find leaders wherever you are that inspire you, and use that trick of emulation. Practice, try on leading the way they do, but always remembering to be your authentic self. Because you’ll take things, you’ll take bits and pieces from the leaders and actually peers that do things well that you admire, but when you internalize it with all the things that make you unique, that’s when you really start to develop your authentic style. And I think it’s really at the heart of it, it is the authenticity that opens up human beings, regardless of their level of introversion or guardedness or whatever. When they feel like they’re sitting with somebody that is really open-hearted, that forms those connections, and that’s when you get that cooperation, and that’s when you can lead, whether it’s by a direct form of leadership or leading through influence.
Patty: 54:59 Great piece of advice.
Mike: 54:59 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Beth: 54:59 It’s trust.
Patty: 55:00 Yeah, trust.
Beth: 55:01 Just fully entrust.
Patty: 55:02 Thank you so much. This has been a really good episode.
Beth: 55:05 Thank you so much.
Mike: 55:05 Yeah, thank you.
Beth: 55:05 They’re all good. I mean-
Patty: 55:06 Oh, thank you.
Mike: 55:06 Thank you.
Beth: 55:06 I’m a fan, so thank you so much for the time.

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