N-Power: Advice from Nlets’ Female Leaders

March 7, 2022

In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8th, we want to highlight some of the amazing leaders at Nlets. We are proud to say that though only 25% of our employees are female, 45% of them are in leadership roles, and our executive team is made up of 43% women.

We asked each of those female leaders for some advice that they would like to share with aspiring female leaders, and they came up with some truly wonderful lessons and stories. Thank you for being the women we look up to and for serving as mentors in our lives.


 
 
 
Laura Carter, Chief Human Resources Officer

How Would You Describe Your Leadership Style and How You ‘Lead’ Others?

I focus on leading with sincerity and integrity. You don’t have to prove yourself in a powerful way because you’re a woman if your team has respect for you and you for them. The biggest key is to listen to others. By hearing what they are saying and understanding their goals and interests, you can give them confidence in their contribution to the company. 

 

What Do You Think Are the Key Benefits to Having Women in Leadership?

Oftentimes women are considered too soft or emotional. That’s a misconception. A woman can be sensitive to the needs of others but at the same time exude confidence.  By getting to know your employees on a personal level, it will better help you understand their strengths and weakness to help them succeed. 

 

What Advice Would You Give to the Next Generation of Female Leaders?

Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and take on challenges that you think you may not be capable of. The only way to grow in your career and leadership is to be brave and bold.


 
 
 
Bonnie Locke, Chief Marketing Officer 

Who Inspired You to Be a Leader and Why?

When I started my career, not only did I not talk about my family, but I actually tried to hide the fact that I had children from corporate leadership. My fear was that doing so would derail my career, which I’m sure many women still fear today. As it turns out, I was fortunate in that my male boss was way ahead of his time. Not only did he protect my job after a 6-week maternity leave (at half pay), but he also promoted me when I returned. He then made it possible to move to a professional part-time job after the birth of my second child, something that had never been done at that organization before. 

I also had the good fortune to work for one of the only female leaders at the time who was unapologetically real and strong. She took a young woman who knew nothing about the business under her wing and taught me what she knew. She was fiercely supportive and protective. Those two people, along with my hard work, catapulted my career while I was also starting a family.

What Advice Would You Give to the Next Generation of Female Leaders?

My advice is to make it a goal to work for a company like Nlets. What I mean by that is to choose an organization that supports women in every way possible, from leaders all the way up in the ranks down to even part-time employees. At a time when it was not accepted or popular, the Nlets Executive Director enabled me to move far away and work remotely to be close to my support structure. He showed so much courage and leadership and set a precedent that employees are humans and have families too. That decision literally changed my life forever. My husband and I have three extraordinary daughters to prove it.


 
 
 
Kate Silhol, Chief Information Officer 

How Would You Describe Your Leadership Style and How You ‘Lead’ Others?

A Ruth Bader Ginsburg quote on leadership style that really resonates with me is, “Fight for the things that you care about but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” Nlets has an important mission and the work we do is often critical. My role as an Nlets leader is to ensure that we fulfill that mission, but to do so while taking every opportunity to build a positive workplace with empowered and excited employees that have ample opportunity to grow.

What Do You Think Are the Key Benefits to Having Women in Leadership?

What are the key benefits of having anybody in leadership? Each individual brings a different set of personal traits to their job and I’m proud to work for a company that sees each of its employees, leaders, and future leaders as valuable individuals rather than defining us by our gender. 

What Advice Would You Give to the Next Generation of Female Leaders?

The advice that I would give is to be confident, participate, and communicate. Be confident enough to voice your opinions and ideas, and to persevere when you hit barriers. Participate consistently and show that you are committed to the company. Communicate – with your coworkers about projects, with your larger network about community trends, with your boss about your goals and their feedback.    


 
 
 
Teri Harsin, Nlets Training and Development Manager

 

How Would You Describe Your Leadership Style and How You ‘Lead’ Others?

I like to think my leadership style is one that fosters development and growth. When I was younger, I always felt much more empowered to take chances and make mistakes when I had a leader that taught me how to take those experiences and learn from them. I was never afraid to make a decision or take an action I felt was appropriate because I was encouraged to do so. I try hard to emulate that leadership style because I know it is what allowed me to gain the confidence I needed to grow in my career. I also enjoy seeing people taking the steps necessary to grow and reach their goals – I am inspired by staff that are motivated to want more for themselves and I want to help them where I can along their journey to achieving their goals.

What Advice Would You Give to the Next Generation of Female Leaders?

The best piece of advice I can give future female leaders is to be confident and to never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. I have been told in the past that my confidence is often what people admire the most about me. Even if you feel less confident on the inside, be sure to exude confidence on the outside! Along with being confident, know that it is okay to make mistakes and what is even more important is to admit when you do. We all make mistakes – own them!


 
 
Cris Marquardt, Business Relationship Manager

How Would You Describe Your Leadership Style and How You ‘Lead’ Others?

Adaptive. As an adaptive leader, I approach opportunities to lead in a way that promotes creativity, engagement, and empathy. When you promote engagement on a personal level, the results are always dynamic and solution driven. Through building relationships, I have been provided the opportunity to discover what really drives the people around me, to find unique ways to feed that drive, and most importantly, to celebrate their successes.

Who Inspired You to Be a Leader and Why?

I admit that this question took me a full weekend to answer because words do not do my thoughts and experiences justice. My inspiration came from a quiet, nondescript, and extremely patient woman. I was blessed to experience a lifetime of watching this incredible woman succeed where others thought she would and should fail. She was not a leader professionally, but she was undoubtedly a leader in life. She was desperate to care for and support her children, to keep a roof over their heads, food in their bellies, and the Lord in their hearts. She never once called in a sick day, never paid a bill late – even if it meant we went without, (and we often did) she never gave up. With an 8th grade education, she raised children, bought and sold homes and land, and retired in the only occupation she ever had. She never allowed an obstacle to stop her and always found a way around it. When I find myself in a position to lead or be led, I think back on those lessons my mom unwittingly passed along; always proceed with kindness, patience, determination, and most of all never give up. You can do anything you set out to do. I love you, Mom.

Have You Ever Felt Imposter Syndrome, And If So, How Did You Navigate Through It? Yes, I have. Who hasn’t experienced the fear of incompetence and self-doubt when faced with a particularly daunting set of circumstances, perceived or otherwise? Often, when you experience Imposter Syndrome, you allow the success of others to highlight your flaws and then you work harder to remove them. As a result, I found myself overwhelmed by my continued efforts to avoid detection. Burn out became the norm and when you are a single parent of three, there is no time for that. I eventually realized that I was living in constant fear of being discovered and that it was impossible to maintain perfection in everything I did.

I ultimately had to acknowledge the existence of my fears and challenge my beliefs. I started by listing out what I knew was fact vs. my perception (It’s amazing what you discover when you commit yourself to paper). However, putting my thoughts to paper wasn’t enough, I also had to learn the tough lesson of not comparing myself to others. It is still a lesson I revisit from time to time, because we all want to be a better version of ourselves and when we admire success and talent in another, we naturally begin self-dissection. What I eventually came to realize was that you may not excel in every task or role, and that’s 100% okay. Almost no one can ‘do it all’ and even when it seems like someone can, remember that their perfection is your perception. Occasionally I will find myself putting on that mask of perfection and standing at the precipice of self-protection, but today I am wiser and more patient with myself. I am now able to step back and enjoy the view.


 Want to know more about these amazing leaders? Check out their individual spotlights below:

Team Spotlight - Kate Silhol

Team Spotlight - Bonnie Locke

Team Spotlight - Laura Carter

Team Spotlight - Teri Harsin

Team Spotlight - Cris Marquardt