My conversation with Ashley Hyman on Parent. Boss. Leader. was an insightful one. She and I specifically connected as fellow board members at the University of California at Irvine Advisory Program, a program that assists students with guidance on courses, majors, and career paths.
Ashley has a distinguished career that started in public health and academia. From there she moved into the business arena at two different startups and is currently VP of Customer Service at Drata, a security and compliance automation platform. From her career changes to learning how to balance being a leader and a parent, her story is an inspiration, especially to moms in today’s workforce.
Knowing When It’s Time to Change Career Direction
Ashley explained how she spent her early career studying public health, obtaining a master’s degree, teaching, and finally completing her clinical research. “After a while I knew that academia wasn’t the place for me. . . I wanted to make a transition into the business world and was searching for opportunities that would use my background and passion for education.”
She applied at an EdTech startup, Portfolium, a digital portfolio and social networking platform, based on the idea that she knew how to speak with educators. “I understand the academic world, even if I don’t know how to invent tech, and they thought the same thing and hired me!” Ashley started on the sales side but once things took off, she pivoted and built their customer success team from the ground up.
Ashley is not alone in wanting to make a career change, and her experience is a great example of how skills and knowledge are transferable and lead to new paths. Even now she stays involved in several arenas as she currently serves as adjunct faculty at National University in San Diego.
Being a Woman in the Workplace
I asked Ashley about her experience as a working woman and whether she faced certain barriers as a leader based on her gender. “I’ve always been in environments where we all bring something to the table, and it’s appreciated no matter your gender or race.”
Part of this is due to her start in public health where she often worked with all, or nearly all, women. Her initial all-male startup team didn’t operate with bias either. “I don’t think gender ever entered their mind. The focus was always on how we could collaborate together.” She freely admits, “I’ve been very lucky, but I obviously empathize with women who don’t have the same privilege.”
I feel I’ve been similarly fortunate, especially as ATR is women-owned, and our leadership team is currently all women. The most important thing anyone can do in their career, regardless of gender, is to show up and challenge yourself. I try to bring other talented women along with me, and Ashley agreed it’s important for women to help each other succeed professionally.
Helping women isn’t just about hiring them or giving them a title but giving them opportunities to learn, improve, impress, and earn a promotion. It is making sure they have a seat at the table, a voice in the meeting, and encouraging and developing their talents.
How Being a Working Mom Makes Us Better Leaders
Ashley and I laughed about our lack of sleep, a side effect of being a working parent. She shared “I always thought I wasn’t having kids. I thought I couldn’t do both effectively, but obviously my thinking changed.”
I agree wholeheartedly. I took a three-year break to have my two little ones (now not so little at five and seven!) and wondered what the future held; I’d always been a career woman. However, motherhood was not a career buster – being a parent made me a better boss. I was more efficient when I came back, leading my team with greater understanding and patience.
Ashley agreed and said, “I think I have a better perspective. We don’t work in life and death. What we do is super impactful, but if a client has to wait an extra 10 minutes, that’s ok. I think I’ve become a more empathetic leader because of my time with my child. I understand that things come up in life.”
Ashley also talked about being deliberate with her schedule and very focused in her efforts, whether she’s on the clock or hanging out with her daughter. One of her best tips? She blocks time on her calendar to work from home, and if you call or email during that time, she will take her time in responding.
Set boundaries to be present and intentional but remember, give yourself a little grace. You won’t always strike the perfect balance. Life is not easy!
There’s more wisdom from conversation, so be sure to listen to the podcast below. Ashley provides inspiration and life lessons for women today, especially working mothers.
You won’t want to miss future conversations on Parent. Boss. Leader. And don’t forget to check out all the great shows on the ATR Podcast Network!
Part 1 with Phil Dana: How Investing in Others Diminishes Weak Links
The Story & Stutter of Matice Morris
The Delicate Balance of Stopping Job-Hoppers Before They Jump