Holly A. Hinze has made a career of leveraging change.
Having explored roles in recruiting, sales, marketing, and product while exploring new home bases in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Florida, and now, Colorado, Holly knows just how much growth comes from doing something new.
“Change is opportunity, in my eyes,” explains Holly, who is currently Vice President of Voice Product Management at Spectrum. “It’s easy to get stuck and long for things to change, but it’s about seeing opportunities, setting a vision for what would be your best possible outcome, and navigating change with a very open mind.”
That viewpoint has allowed Holly to grow her impact, income, and enjoyment at work, all without leaving her company. There’s a common myth that job-hopping is the best way to get ahead, but Holly’s 16-year run at Spectrum proves that you can also successfully manage yourself towards your dream career by taking advantage of what’s right in front of you.
“It’s about maximizing anything that comes my way: relationships, opportunities, my learning. Really zeroing in and focusing when given the opportunity, then applying those lessons and sharing them with others,” she says.
We asked Holly to share more of her lessons-learned on how to pursue growth and pay her insight forward here.
Holly originally had her eyes set on doing media production, and left her home state of Wisconsin to study at the University of Minnesota’s journalism program. But the freezing-cold winter weather didn’t appeal, so when she was looking for her first full-time job, she headed to Florida for a role as a marketing manager for a national brand.
This role let her engage in storytelling but also learn more about how a business worked, and she stayed there for a couple of years before switching into a recruiting role. It was that role that set her up to move into sales for a tech company, because connecting candidates with companies ended up being quite similar to connecting customers with the right products.
Holly decided to put herself forward for a role in technology because she knew it would help her get closer to her goals.
“I wanted to increase my earning potential. I liked the idea of having a bit more flexibility. And I wanted a challenge, somewhere with great products, culture and people,” says Holly, who ended up accepting a role at the former cable company Bright House Networks.
Throughout her early career, two attributes were key to Holly’s success: she wasn’t afraid to leave something when it wasn’t working for her, and she always put herself forward for new opportunities when she saw them come up.
“Every major shift or life change, you’re giving something up,” says Holly of getting used to not one, not two, but three new industries in her early career days. “It’s natural to have stress or conflict over that, but as I’ve grown in my career, I’ve realized that it’s wasted energy. It’s important to stand in your power and be confident in your potential.”
Working in sales gave Holly significant exposure to her company’s product team, since she often gave them voice-of-customer feedback and coordinated projects between product, operations, marketing, and sales.
“I hit this point where I needed a new challenge,” remembers Holly. She talked to her managers and to other leaders within the company and heard about a product management role that seemed like a good fit, and was recruited internally for it.
Working in the product department allowed Holly to bring together all she’d learned from previous positions. “I’m still telling these stories,” she says. “I’m not creating TV shows or movies, but the technology that we’re managing and developing is really critical, and it’s all grounded in communication. And the cool thing is I now have the opportunity to continually refine our products and make them better.”
But when Bright House merged with Charter Communications, which operates the Spectrum brand of broadband connectivity products and services, Holly faced another choice. Did she want to go from being a generalist at a small product organization, with her hands in everything, to an expert in a narrower domain—and did she want to move to Denver to do it?
Spectrum’s new product leaders wanted Holly to come work with them, and Holly was interested, but she knew the opportunity would have to be a compelling one to justify uprooting her husband and two kids. Specifically, that meant additional responsibility, a new title, and compensation package that would allow Holly to really level-up her career and her family’s life.
“I have some really powerful, assertive, smart women in my life,” Holly says. “They have taught me that assertiveness is not arrogance and is the best way to courageously present my authentic self to others. It's important to know who you are, know your experience, and be able to articulate your potential and the value you bring to an organization. It’s not that I didn’t have doubts—it’s that I took a deep breath, threw my shoulders back, and said the thing that I wanted.”
As it ended up, the senior director and the vice president who were trying to recruit Holly were both women, and were very amenable to what Holly wanted. And after meeting with the senior vice president, she knew the opportunity was the right one. “They were all absolutely phenomenal and super open-minded, and it was a natural fit from that point on,” Holly remembers.
Several career (and physical) moves later, Holly has some hard-earned advice on pursuing change for a fulfilling career:
1) Start by “contemplating what could be.” Holly says her approach starts with seeing the positive in a potential career move long before the negative. “Instead of focusing too much on what you’re giving up, you’re creating the best possible outcome for yourself by having the right mindset,” she says. “It’s been a key differentiator as I navigate my career. Your beliefs determine your path, so if you believe you’re stuck, you will be; if you believe that you have opportunities, you will.”
2) Imagine without limits. There are probably things that feel off-limits. Don’t think about practicalities at this point, says Holly, who shares what she asks herself: “What If I could double my earning potential? What if I could have a short commute to and from work? What if I could be in a great neighborhood for my kids? What if I could get a big promotion? It’s amazing when you start to imagine what’s possible and you put those things out there, especially when you start to verbalize them and to manifest them.”
3) “Sell your potential.” Before Holly took her first role in product, she’d never worked in the field, but she was able to articulate how her previous experience lined up with the role requirements and how her open-minded approach to feedback meant she would learn quickly from any mistakes.
4) Share your ambition with others. “It's not something you need to harp on daily, but set expectations about furthering your career and what that looks like for you,” Holly says. “With me, it’s never been a secret. I’ve been open with every manager that I've had about my ambitions to grow, but was willing to be patient and work hard to get there.”
5) Create opportunities for others. Holly says she owes her latest promotions to that senior vice president, and those women leaders she mentioned earlier lifting her up as they advanced, and now she’s looking to do the same thing for others.
6) Don’t be afraid of the downside. If you’re nervous about embracing change, says Holly, think about it in terms of the worst-case scenario. “If it’s really not working out, rest assured that with the skills you have and the network you’ve built, you can carry on with confidence that you can build a future for yourself around a different change,” she says.
3 Pieces of Advice from Working Moms at Pluralsight
Being fully committed to work and family is a challenge that many working parents have to take on. It can be exhausting and thankless pursuing a fulfilling full-time career, while taking an active role as a parent. Achieving a healthy balance can help keep you motivated and productive at work, while allowing you to be fully present when you're home.
We recently chatted with working moms at technology skills platform, Pluralsight, about their best advice for striking that elusive work-life balance. Here were their key points:
Stop trying to be a supermom
You are a wonder woman. You do so much! Even with the most supportive spouse, there are so many things to remember, so many tasks to do, appointments, events, plans, work projects, meetings, etc. that burnout is looming at every turn. Have grace for yourself. It usually takes someone else to point that out when we've hit our limit, so we must do our best to prevent that and remind ourselves regularly that we are only human and can only juggle so many things at a time. Plan and set realistic expectations for yourself. Planning conservatively will help get prioritized things done on time. It will help you be more efficient so you can perform at work while being present at home too.
Integrations Engineer, San Diego, CA
Set realistic expectations and embrace change
Just like in any relationship, you must understand how valuable you are in order to maintain a fair agreement between you and your employer. Understanding how valuable you are will help you gain the confidence required to speak up and ask for what will make you a happy and productive employee. You don't ask, you don't get. Some employers already understand the importance of a work/life balance for their staff, but if not, you may need to set firm expectations and boundaries (i.e. long hours, weekend work, workload, etc). When you make it clear what you are willing to do and where your limits are, expectations can ensure employers plan accordingly and you get the time you need for family.
Integrations Engineer, San Diego, CA
At 12 weeks pregnant, I had already read half a dozen books and countless articles on pregnancy and childbirth. My bag was packed with a cute after-hospital outfit, the birth plan was written, and I was prepared.
When my twin girls arrived a month early, the birth plan was the first thing to fly out the window. The books hadn't prepared me for the messiness of childbirth. The cute outfit stayed in my bag. But none of that mattered– I was now responsible for these tiny beautiful human beings who had become my whole world. I was part of something bigger.
This first lesson of motherhood– to embrace change and never lose sight of what's really important– has become invaluable in all aspects of my personal and professional life. In my two-decade career as a software engineer and leader, I constantly find myself throwing plans out the window and adapting to new situations. Being a working mother of five has taught me to use those messy moments as learning opportunities. A greater sense of purpose keeps me grounded and grateful through all the change. At home, it is my family. At work, it comes from being a member of an amazing team and building products that make a difference.
Sr. Director of Software Development, Flow Visualization, Durango, CO
Drop the guilt and give yourself grace
I honestly never envisioned myself being a working mom. It wasn't until I landed in a career that I truly loved, that I thought about how I could pursue both dreams of being a mother and continuing to progress career-wise.
When I first returned to work, it was really challenging. I felt pulled in so many different directions for how I showed up for both family and work. I found myself stretched thin and worn out. Ultimately I didn't feel like I was performing well in any area of my life.
It wasn't until I learned how to prioritize my time, and honestly, say no when others asked for things I couldn't commit to without over-extending myself, that I felt like I really succeeded.
I received some great advice from a mentor about the importance of setting realistic expectations of how much time I can give. At the beginning of my journey of working motherhood, I always felt like I was missing out on work stuff when I had to drop off/pick up my son from daycare. When I was put on meetings that went outside of regular working hours, I felt this pressure to listen in to every word. It made things stressful for both me and my son.
When I finally decided that I was going to spend that commuting time interacting with my son instead of trying to find ways to keep him quiet so I could listen to meetings, things changed for me.
I ask team members to take notes they can share with me following the meeting. Or in cases where there are more details I know I need, I ask for recordings of the meetings. And you know what? I usually find that I'm not missing too much. The business carries on. I'm able to perform my job function well. And I don't feel like my team sees me as less committed for prioritizing my family.
Demand Program Manager, Utah
Only you know what is best for you and your family. Will you be a better mom and wife if you provide financially? Would you make more of a difference if you were a stay-at-home-mom? I tried to be a stay-at-home-mom after being a working mom, and let's just say my impatient personality didn't make for such a positive experience. Also, missing my kids while at work helps me look forward to seeing them and gives me the reset I need sometimes. Each choice has its challenges, and even if you do not have the luxury to choose, just know that whichever way you go YOU ARE DOING THE BEST YOU CAN and that is all you can do. You can feel guilty either way, so choose to do your best and drop the guilt.
Integrations Engineer, San Diego, CA
Learn more about Pluralsight's open roles here.
When Kim Beauchemin is leading new backpackers on a hike, there are certain rules she always follows.
"We go in groups, and every group I lead is a team. We hike together, we stay together, and if the weather's bad, we all don't go to the summit, we turn around and go back down because we're a team," says Kim, who lives in Massachusetts and is a leader with the Appalachian Mountain Club.
Those are the same principles, more or less, that Kim, the Director of Engineering and Agile Practice at application security company Veracode, has used to manage herself and her team at work through several company transformations.
We sat down with the engineering leader to talk about how she approaches leading through change, how she invites change into her own career and development, and what tips she has for others who are finding themselves facing change at work.
Staying Agile through pivots
Kim was at CA Technologies for 12 years before they were bought by Veracode. She'd been through rounds of internal change and growth, but integrating into a completely new company was hard.
"Change brings challenge, but some people are motivated by change," says Kim. "I'm one of those people."
Kim started off as a technical writer and learned about agile practices when she was managing a team of other technical writers. She took on a program manager role where she leaned on Agile methodologies, including scrum and kanban, to drive her team towards results.
"I had to step away from being the domain expert or the person that's the expert in the content, but rather try to invite people into their own leadership and ask good questions so people could work better and collaborate better," she says.
That same skill set served her when Broadcom bought Veracode several years after the CA Technologies changeover—and then again when Broadcom later sold Veracode.
"[Veracode] went from being its own entity to being acquired by CA to being acquired by Broadcom and then sold again as its own entity under private equity," summarizes Kim. "My awareness of how change impacts people, both positively and negatively, helped," she says. "So did being able to work with and collaborate with different personalities to understand what individuals and teams need to be successful, and, especially during times of change, how to support them."
The top skill she relied on? Communication. "I'm a true believer in transparency—maybe too much sometimes," says Kim. "You do what you can to assure your team and make the transition as un-scary as it can be."
Learning to think strategically, with institutional support
Through those transitions, Veracode went from a startup to part of a 10,000-person company and then back to its own entity again. Along the way, leaders like Kim had to step up and think strategically at a different scale. She welcomed the chance to change the way she led her team.
"A new SVP wanted to create an Agile PMO for the whole organization," she says. "I had to be more strategic in order to define an organization, then build it and hire for it and lead it."
Becoming the director of that organization stretched Kim beyond what she'd done before. "I was so tactical before that, great at getting my tasks done," she says. "The ability to understand the bigger picture, develop a long-term vision and figure out what the strategic roadmap is to get there was a completely foreign thing to me."
She reached out to Veracode's VP of Corporate Development, Pete Ellis, for coaching. "He immediately responded with, 'Absolutely, let's set up a six-month thing,'" says Kim. "And he led me through six months of some great exploratory thinking around strategy and how to think about things in a different way and at a strategic level."
A particularly memorable lesson was around the idea of zooming out. You could look at a car accident and see a person who wasn't paying attention, or you step back and see the road conditions, the disruptions to a morning routine, and the other factors that could have contributed to what happened, Kim explained. "Having more than one lens to examine challenging situations through provides more perspective that can inform better decision-making and strategy," says Kim.
Her mentorship relationship with an executive isn't unique to her, says Kim. "Veracode is big on supporting its employees, especially if an employee shows initiative. Veracode often does anything they can to support them growing professionally."
3 ways to adapt to changes that are outside of your control
Kim's tips for adjusting to organizational change include:
- Don't panic. Take a breath. "People can get so worked up even before anything actually happens. I encourage people to take a step back, take a breath, and know that we'll get through it."
- Know that it will be uncomfortable. "You will be pushed out of your comfort zone, and while change and transformation are difficult, that's how we learn and grow as individuals, as an organization, as a company. There's a lot of potential and possibility that comes out of uncomfortableness."
- Realize that it won't be right the first time. "If you're going to transform, if you're going to try new things, some of them are going to work great. Some of them are not. You'll have to adapt, and that's okay. As long as we're learning, as long as we're improving, or trying to improve, we have to forgive ourselves in advance for making mistakes."
And remember the Appalachian Mountain Club's top recommendation—never hike alone—and stick together, says Kim. "The more you have, the better."
How 2U's Liza Ramo Sessler Manages Professional & Personal Growth
Liza Ramo Sessler isn't afraid of change. In fact, she's built a life around embracing it.
From starting out her career in PR to working as a technical writer at IBM, from leaving that job to attend a coding boot camp and transition careers again, and from taking a break from being a coding instructor to travel the world for over a year, Liza is no stranger to transitioning between industries, roles, and locations.
Now, living in Austin and working remotely as a Senior Software Engineer and Tech Lead at online education company 2U Inc., Liza is navigating a different kind of change: being a new mother during a global pandemic.
But by leaning on the skills and values she's always had—like collaboration, curiosity, and a willingness to teach and learn—and adopting some new ones along the way, Liza is making these latest changes work for her, her family, and her career. We sat down to hear more about her story.
Leaning into the pivot
When she was in college at Chapel Hill, Liza was sure she wanted to work in PR. But upon graduating and moving to New York, the environment she found there wasn't quite her style.
"It was really cutthroat, and I just wasn't totally enjoying it," she says. That led to her first pivot, which was into technical writing at IBM.
"They purposefully hired people that didn't have a technical background because the content that we were writing was public-facing, and they wanted it to be as engaging as possible," she says.
While she enjoyed the role and the environment, she realized that she wanted to be building things, not just explaining them, so she attended a General Assembly (GA) boot camp on a Google scholarship.
"It's scary to not have an income for three months, but I had nothing to lose," she says. It felt like the right time to make that big switch, too. "A friend said that if you're going to make a change, do it all the way, before it's really hard to make that switch," she says. "That really helped me a lot."
Liza says she got used to "staying up all night long for three months straight—great practice for having a baby!" before being hired into her first developer role. She found the work interesting, but missed being in a learning environment, so she pivoted again and became a coding instructor for the GA bootcamp she'd graduated from.
That gave her a chance to create the kind of environment where more people could succeed.
Whether working as a technical writer or a developer or an instructor, all of Liza's jobs in the tech space have played into her natural sense of exploration and curiosity. "In PR or marketing, you kind of always feel like you have to give these really well-formed answers to things," she says. "In the engineering world, you don't have to do that. It's a really great place to scrape your knees and just say 'I don't know, let's find out together.'"
Packing up that curiosity
While working as a coding instructor, Liza decided it was the right time to make use of the travel fund she'd been contributing to for over a decade. "I had always dreamed of traveling," she says.
So Liza and her now-husband sold their furniture, packed a backpack each, and set off, traveling to 35 countries over 14 months, staying with family in Europe and Israel and visiting "as many far-fetched places as we could," says Liza.
Most impressively, Liza didn't let the stress of finding a job upon her return dim the excitement of the trip. "I just kept thinking, it's really not worth worrying about right now because I'm in Switzerland and these mountains are beautiful and I waited my whole life to do this," she says.
(It also didn't hurt that her husband is a developer too, so they opted to spend a week in a tiny coastal town in Australia and "do nothing but code and play," to get the ball rolling again.)
Finding the right environment at 2U
When Liza did come back to work, it was at Trilogy, an all-remote startup that created turnkey bootcamp solutions for universities.
When Trilogy was acquired by education company 2U, her work expanded. She's now the tech lead for student-facing products across 2U's business, which includes creating customized solutions for different short courses, boot camps, professional certificates, undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
Her work allows her to lean into the empathetic teaching she loved doing as an instructor, only now she's doing it from the inside, as an advocate for her products' users.
"At the end of the day, whether it's dealing with stakeholder requests or business restrictions or not having enough resources, it just doesn't matter—you have got to give a good product to the end users, which in our case are students," she says. "I've been an instructor and you can see the immense amount of pressure that is on those students; they have given up so much to be there and they need to focus on the content."
From building intuitive attendance tracking or assignment submitting tools, Liza makes sure her team keeps students in mind, and she takes that same energy to the rest of the company's stakeholders. "Users don't care about bells and whistles," she says, "especially because the platform here is not the product—it's really the curriculum. What our users really want is for existing features to work even better so that they can have a really easy time while they navigate through the product."
Leaning on her team
Liza is good at dealing with change, but adjusting to life as a new mom during a pandemic was a particularly big wave of change to deal with all at once.
First came the pandemic changes. Luckily for Liza and her team they were already used to working remotely from their Trilogy days. However, the extra support 2U provided was greatly appreciated.All employees received a home office stipend—which Liza used for a bike desk!—and there was regular leadership encouragement to take mental health days as needed.
Then Liza had to start planning her maternity leave. She had 12 weeks of paid leave, with an option to come back part-time for 30 days and be paid for the hours that she worked, which she took.
"I thought maternity leave was going to be like cuddling with the baby on the couch and watching a movie. And I don't think that happened once," she says. "I really needed that time to be with my little family and try to figure stuff out. And it was really nice to not have to have any work obligations whatsoever." (And, she notes, she benefitted from not even having the temptation to check in—2U's policy is to deactivate Slack and email accounts when employees are on leave.)
Most importantly, she knew she could take that time off because of how much she trusts her team. After being the only woman on the tech team at her first developer job and the only woman instructor during her time at General Assembly, she's particularly thrilled to have a more balanced team at 2U.
"The number one thing that's been helpful is that half my squad is women, so they just get it. I don't have to explain anything. It wasn't a big deal when I went out on leave. It was just like, 'No problem, I gotcha,'" she says. She adds, smiling: "And that's why it's so important to hire women in technical fields. Thank you for coming to my TED talk."
When she came back part-time, she became "very, very intentional" about how she spends her time. "If people wander off topic in meetings, I have to say, 'Yeah, we gotta get back to this or I have to leave this meeting because I have work to do, and I can't do it later,'" she says.
The development of superhuman time-management skills didn't come as a surprise, however. Her days as an instructor taught her that people with small children are the best students, and now she knows they're the best employees, too. "They have to get things done," she says.
Thanks to the environment at 2U—which affords her the flexibility and autonomy she needs to get things done on a schedule that works for her and her family—she's navigating yet another major life change with poise and confidence.
Encouraging others to embrace change
If you're considering a major life move like one of the several Liza has orchestrated over the past few years, here are her top three tips:
- Do your research. "It's not like I woke up one day and was like, 'Okay, I'm going to do this,'" she says. "It's a lot of research and talking to people; it's a calculated risk."
- Chip away at what scares you. If you're nervous to leave your current job and go into your dream field because you hate interviewing, you could do an interview—simulated or actually scheduled—every single day for 30 days, says Liza. "It sounds so gross and startup-y, but you need to find those areas where you can safely fail," she says. "Call it iterating rather than failing."
- Recognize that your career is an investment in yourself. If you'd prefer to be doing something else with your work or with your life, it's worth pursuing that. "You can start really, really small, but just start," she says.